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Lessons for coping with Coronavirus from the world of rugby



Despite two Junior World Cup campaigns and being awarded the Ireland U21 captaincy, in 2016 a young rugby player called Gareth Steenson was told by top flight Irish club Ulster that he would never make it as a professional and to look for a job.


His response was to stick up a figurative two fingers, packed his case and move to England, where he found a home...playing for Rotherham.


It was a massive move for the 20-something boy from the small town of Dungannon (population 14,000) in Northern Ireland.


Family played and important part in his life and crossing the Irish Sea was a major wrench.


Eleven years later, in May 2017, Gareth skippered the Exeter Chiefs to victory in the English Premiership kicking the winning penalty to sink Wasps at Twickenham.


It is a salutary lesson in resilience and one we could all learn from in the current climate.


In an interview when asked about his tough start in rugby, Gareth was typically philosophical.


“I think my whole career has been built on being told I wasn’t good enough,” he said.


“That was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.


“Everyone will have a setback in some shape or form. It is how you deal with it that matters. It makes you who you are and gives you resilience.


“You’ve got to overcome things. If you’re handed stuff you don’t appreciate it.”


It may seem a stretch to compare Gareth’s story with what many businesses are going through now but here is what I take from it:


·      Rather than focus on the negatives, he took positive action.

·      He backed himself, refusing to believe those who had chosen to write his career off

·      He rolled up his sleeves … Rotherham was far from a glamorous club

·      He worked hard to get noticed. From practising his kicking to training hard Gareth made his own luck

·      He didn’t feel sorry for himself. Gareth realised that if he was to turn things around there was no point in wasting time moping

So what can we learn and apply to the current crisis?

·      If what you are offering as a service or product isn’t in demand right now look at what you can do differently. As I write this there is a feature on BBC News about a young baker and cafe owner who has switched to offering her goods via mail order service after a slump in business

·      Believe in yourself. You have managed to steer your business through a lot of highs and lows already. Although this is a real biggie, it isn’t insurmountable

·      Research, plan, collaborate and review. Losing clients is a frightening prospect but you can use the extra time you have to work on some new ideas or partnerships

·      Don’t bury your head in the sand. When things get tough, the temptation is to withdraw but this is a time to share your hopes and fears with others… we are all in the same boat!

·      Accept that we are in an unprecedented situation and will be for some time. The sooner you come to terms with that, the sooner you are likely to start thinking about ways react positively


PS


Yesterday I posted a blog about why it is important to laugh in these difficult times (thank you for the fabulous feedback) and while on a rugby theme, I found something I wrote on LinkedIn in 2017:


I had been following the British Lions squad’s twitter account who were touring in New Zealand and an interview with captain Sam Warburton caught my eye because of the question he was asked, which was: “What will you do to create good team spirit?


His answer astounded and delighted me in equal measure!


He said: “You’ve got to have fun on tour. That’s generated in training on the field… in the hotel…”


So far, so good.


Then he continued: “And we deliberately set up certain meetings where the aim of the meeting is just to have a laugh.”


Hang on, rewind.


The players deliberately set up certain meetings where the aim is just to have a laugh?!


Sam explained: “I think you need to regularly arrange those things throughout the week. It’s very difficult to go through an intense schedule of training and playing, media and commercial commitments for six weeks. The players need to switch off… to socialise together and relax.”


Wise words indeed...