Truly purposeful development at England Rugby

This week I was able to spend time at the England U20’s training camp as they prepared for this weekend’s Six Nations match against Ireland.

Along with a few of our friends and clients, we took up a ‘fly on the wall’ stance – observing pitch practise, team meetings, briefings and the hearing from the coaches and those involved in the development pathway.

As per my usual style, I wrote a tonne of notes – there were so many great insights and gems of learning. But on reflection, the overarching theme that was present throughout was the very real and very strong sense of purpose.

The pathway is all about ‘development’. Now you might think that’s obvious. I kind of thought it was too. What surprised me was the absolute anchoring purpose that ‘development focus’ has in EVERYTHING the players experience.

It’s the language and approach of the coaches – focused on creating learning experiences, and opportunities to learn from failure

It’s the lens for the analysts in their data collation – with over 65000 data points, they need to be focused!

It’s in the appetite and ambition of every player – their Individual Development Plans being shared with club, parents and all pathway stakeholders

Don Barrell told us ‘the pathway is a journey of multiple touchpoints … we have to assume and create movement.’

Every interaction, every meeting, every 6 min of practise drill is all supremely focused on the things each player needs to be exposed to, experience and become confident in to develop.

Compare that to our workplace/organisation ‘development programmes’.  How many of us can claim a similar level of purpose driven intentionality in our programmes?  How easy it could be to ‘tick off’ development by running ‘a series of one day workshops’ without stakeholder support, coaching, and clear development plans in place.

Brian Ashton described the camp as a ‘caring but demanding environment’ where the players ‘set the standards for themselves’.   With that lens the coaches and pathway team are the enablers not the ‘demanders’ of performance.

A truly thought-provoking experience, with so much passion and focus across the team.   I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity – thanks to Alan Dickens, Don Barrell and Kate Burke, as well as Brian, for joining giving us such great insight.

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Michaela Weller

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