My incredible day of learning at the England Rugby training camp

Earlier this month, Leading Edge and Performance Edge invited a select group of Performance Hub friends and clients to attend – fly-on-the-wall style – the England Men’s U20s camp ahead of their Six Nations match against France.

We were delighted that Performance Hub regular Belinda Steward could join us. Our copywriter Jenny Gibson caught up with her to find out what she took out from the session and why she values being part of this community.

Belinda, you’ve joined us at many Performance Hub events and we always value your contribution. What was this one all about?

It was fantastic to be one of a few ‘flies on the wall’ at this training camp for the U20s, experiencing briefing sessions, on-field play and sessions with coaches. I feel very privileged because this was my second experience of this kind, having come along last year as well. How fantastic to see it one year on.

Performance Hub suits this kind of environment so well: it’s very natural, unscripted and with a fluid agenda. We know we’re going to see high performance sport in action, but as a group of people, we’re constantly relating it back to the business world, always thinking: What can we learn from sport?

Before we talk about what you learnt from the day, can I ask why you think the England Rugby coaches are happy to open up this kind of session?

It’s an interesting question. I know they are very keen on receiving feedback and genuinely want to know what people think of how they develop player potential. Conversation is hugely encouraged in this environment. I found it incredible last year when one of the players talked about how he already thinks about what his career will be after rugby – we went on to have a great conversation about helping him network.

So, what did you learn from watching a rugby coaching session on a cold Tuesday in March?

So much! But it’s the fact that it’s player-led along with the fly-on-the-wall style that made the difference for me, so I’ll focus on that.

Seeing development take place is far more engaging than simply hearing someone describe what took place. For example, I watched how passionate and focused the players were as they closely analysed clips from the previous day’s training, came up with suggestions for improvement and interacted as a group to plan for next time. I know that a successful line-out in the game against France would have happened as a direct result of that session.


I also saw such collective energy and enthusiasm during a rather ferocious (brutal!) tackle-pad session, with players encouraging each other on as though their lives depended on it. Had I not been standing so close, I would not have thought it possible to generate such energy on a cold and dull day! It was actually mesmerising and my thoughts turned to the corporate world and how we often use team meetings and get-togethers to present to people rather than as an opportunity to collaborate, discuss, challenge and ultimately get shared ownership of a plan.

Was there one key takeaway for you?

Definitely. And it’s referred to as the ‘lurking policy’. The coaches and support team are actively encouraged to hang out – to lurk – and be accessible when the players arrive at camp and throughout the week. By sitting around in the coffee area, not huddled in a room planning, they can casually pick up with a player who might need a chat or who they might be concerned about.

Time is precious at a training camp and every second counts. It got me thinking about business contexts. Do we create enough opportunity for those ‘casual collisions’ where we can be available to support someone just when they need it most?

What does Performance Hub mean to you more generally?

Firstly, I’d like to say that it is always a privilege to attend a Performance Hub event – and I feel very lucky to be part of this incredible comm

unity. It is such a welcoming environment and the people involved are so generous with their time and insights, openly sharing for the benefit of others.

Patrick and Michaela’s hard work has created this community and it’s the credibility they have at what they do that makes it what it is. I first worked with Leading Edge in 2014 to support 120 people through a cultural transformation programme in preparation for launching a new hotel brand in London. I am incredibly proud of what we achieved together, the standout highlight being that, out of 1,065 hotels on Tripadvisor, we got in at number 5 as a direct result of the collaboration with Leading Edge. The service culture embedded at that hotel group still lives and breathes today, and creating this was the starting point for everything I’ve gone on to do with the Leading Edge team.

And how important is the connection to sport?

I am passionate about watching sport, exercising and all the physical and mental health benefits sport brings. So to be able to get close to and learn from a high performance sport environment in this way is amazing. Performance Hub enables this to happen. It’s an o ngoing conversation about themes and topics important in high performance business and sport – and it all happens in a safe environment where you can discuss anything openly.

For me, the sport aspect, whether being at Wembley or a rugby coaching session, adds a positive layer that everyone can relate to. Rather than thinking I’m going to a business thing, I anticipate a common connection (whatever the sport) with peers that opens and broadens the mind in terms of work or personal thoughts. Sport helps bring the topic to life. It’s a great leveller. That’s not to take away one bit from the amazing event at the RNLI last year, which I know will be fondly remembered and talked about for years to come.

Any final thoughts?

The beauty of Performance Hub is spending valuable time with like-minded people who generously share, wanting to both learn and question. The network is quite incredible. I look forward to getting together as a community at these events in the same way I look forward to catching up with old friends. And even though each event explores a particular topic, there is an ongoing powerful conversation that carries through, building on and enhancing high performance themes each time.

‘Gold dust’ is how a fellow attendee described Performance Hub conversation to me recently. I couldn’t agree more.

Belinda Steward, Hospitality Professional 



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