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England Rugby is helping develop the future stars of the game with a series of unique off-the-pitch experiences to take selected age-grade players from the performance pathway out of their comfort zone and develop their self-awareness, ability to influence, communication and leadership skills.
Predominately focused around three annual activities, constructed with support from recognised learning provider Leading Edge, players have been challenged to adapt to work with different personalities and learn how to get the best out of each other.
In April selected players from England Rugby’s player pathway spent three days at Port Hamble Marina on the Solent where they were set a number of challenges.
On day one they were given an introduction to sailing and acclimatisation on board the boat, as well as a session on psychology and understanding their ‘chimp’ using Professor Steve Peters’ model.
Day two saw them learn basic sailing skills, taking the boats out on Port Solent under supervision before being set tasks designed to be physically and mentally testing but help make them become better decision makers, as well as exposing them to being under pressure in an unfamiliar environment.
The final day the lessons learned on the sailing day were discussed and translated back into the context of the players’ development and performance.
“This camp focused on how we interact with each other, the decisions we make and how much choice we have in making those decisions when we’re in high-pressure scenarios such as sailing for the first time," said England U20 hooker Will Capon.
“I had a focus on being comfortable not being in control. It was a very new experience for a lot of us. I learned how to lean on the people around me for answers and we worked together then to find the solution to a challenge.
“There are a lot of decisions we had to make and we had a big focus on how our ‘chimp’, using the Professor Steve Peters model, is influencing our more human rationalised decision making. So at times we were challenged on when we are under pressure being able to manage that Chimp and make as informed a decision as possible to affect the outcome.”
England U20 forward Tom Willis added: “One of the purposes of this task was for us to work together as a team under pressure in an unfamiliar environment, and that was certainly the case in Port Solent.
“We all had different roles, had to be quite reactive out on the water and work together to solve the problems we encountered.
“I think we really learned what peoples different strengths are. A couple of the players were natural organisers so they took on that aspect of the task while a couple of others took on the physical element to it.
“It was the first time sailing for most of us, a totally new experience and a good way for us to learn how to stay calm and communicate effectively in a different environment while under pressure. I feel as a team we did that really well.
“All pressure situations can relate back to sport so anything we do on these camps can be related back to rugby and dealing with those key moments in a game.”
The camps are also designed to help the players with the dynamic of fitting into a team as well as helping them understand how they think in certain situations by improving self-awareness through recognition of their own personal strengths and weaknesses.
The development scheme has been running for two years with the visit to Hamble Marina the eighth camp since January 2017.
Earlier this year selected players spent two days with Serve On, a charity providing emergency search and rescue in natural disasters worldwide.