Can you coach Resilience? Here’s 7 ways to try…

There are so many tragedies around the world and it is inevitable that each and every one of us has either already experienced some kind of material set-back or knows someone who has. It is also inevitable that we will experience various set-backs throughout our life time, whether at home, at work, or in the community.

Some people, organizations and communities ‘bounce back’ quickly, others don’t. Why is that? Resilience is the ability to recover, become strong or successful again after something bad has happened. At the individual level there are some biological factors at play with regard to how our brains work that somewhat influence that process, but I’m afraid they’re above my pay grade. Given businesses and communities are networks of people, what I want to explore is how we can help develop or coach resilience through a process of encouraging and practicing healthy habits. Whether we are self-coaching, life-coaching, parenting, leading a team at work, or mentoring others, I believe these habits can be applied. The younger they are learned, the better. I have outlined 7 steps to develop resilience. Let me know what you think and please share any additional recommendations you have learned from your own coaching / experience?

Some of the young people we work with at Play Rugby USA it seems have experienced enough set-backs already for life. Some of them have had to grow up quickly as a result. It is truly inspirational to see how so many of them continue to go-forward and support each other in achieving success. We are proud to be able to provide them with some passionate Youth Development Mentors who they can trust to help them along the way. So this brings me to the first of my 7 steps to learning resilience:

1) Go-Forward mindset: Yes, this is easier said than done but we remind our students regularly to “Go Forward”. As I have stated in previous blogs, Go Forward in rugby means to advance the ball forward to maintain possession (control), challenge and ultimately penetrate the defense (adversity). Off the field this means to learn, improve, experience personal growth and to never give up. A Go Forward mindset therefore requires learning from the past but always looking to the future knowing we may not always be able to control every outcome, but so long as we are going forward (making progress) to never give up. A Go-Forward mindset isn’t enough on its own to be learn resilience, but it’s a solid start. Just saying to yourself regularly “Go-Forward” is a gentle reminder to keep focus on what’s next, not what has gone before.

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2) Understand that change is constant and set-backs are an inevitable part of change: We have likely all been told at some point in our childhood “life isn’t fair”, and we have it drummed into us that “the only constant is change”. But, how do we prepare for change? When coaching / mentoring we can communicate that goals & benchmarks can change, expectations can be adjusted and that there is always something can can be learnt from every outcome, whether it was desired or not. We can encourage people to “play what we see” and make the best decisions they can on the fly taking into account those around them. We can communicate that sometimes bad things may happen, and we appreciate that bad things suck. But because we know that, we shouldn’t be surprised; we can handle them. Also, we need to appreciate point #3:

3) Step back to broaden your perspective: Picture your issue / set back. It may be all consuming. Then take one massive step back in your head. What else is there in your life? What is going well, what and who do you love, who do you know, who has been through this before, who can help? I’m not exactly a philosophy expert but Budda did say: “Our life is shaped by our mind. We become what we think. Suffering follows an evil [replace with "negative"] thought as the wheels of the cart follow the oxen that draws it”. Thinking broadly, thinking positively helps dilute the concentration of adversity.

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4) You can’t change the weather: (Although you can move to improve it!). We can only control what we can control. So, we have to make the most of the things within our sphere of self-influence. Also, if there are too many external factors negatively influencing our sphere of self-influence, how can we control (i.e. get rid of / minimize) some of them? For the things within our control, imagining our ultimate outcome (vision) for each, helps set our course. For example, if you’re a personal trainer working with someone looking to loose weight (it is New Year after all) how do they want to look and feel in 12 months time? Then, we help them set small goals in bite sized pieces, to help them move them forward. Then:

5) Self-Leadership: This is a broad and much documented topic but there are some basics we can employ that help us maximize point #4 above. Once we have set our ‘ultimate’ or  longer-term direction for a particular factor we can control and we’re motivated to get there,  imagining what that could look like (motivation), we can now employ 3 R’s: a) Reward ourselves for our achievements, and b) Reflect upon our outcomes (whether good or bad); and c) practice self-Respect. That is – put your positive hat on! If we respect ourselves, we can look positively at each step we take towards the vision we have for ourselves and be honest about whether we’re still going-forward. And if we’re struggling, we can always remember the old English proverb: “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.

6) Balance routine with enrichment: Personally, I’ve always been one to “keep busy” to keep my mind and body active & challenged and in some respects this has helped me go-forward after some set-backs. Routine for me traditionally has been work (running a small portfolio of sports-themed social enterprises) and training (gym, running, biking, rugby practice). However, having a routine it is not enough and at times can be a cause of stress and anxiety by taking on too much and loosing control of too many outcomes. So, just as important  or helpful as a routine may be, it’s equally important to have fun. Take a break, play a game, go out with friends, watch a movie, write a blog..haha, etc.

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Lastly, and absolutely not least:

7) You do not have to be alone: One of the themes that comes out most prominently from many of the students we work with is that since they have started playing rugby they realize they have a new “family”, “teammates” and “support”. They “look for help” want to become “role models” and feel a “connection” to and “respect” for each other. They make each other want to be a “better player / person” and they “learn” from each other along the way. They have chosen to participate in a game that has provided them with a new network of friends and supporters. So, to develop resilience, you need to ensure that YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE ALONE. Being resilient however isn’t just about asking others for help. Resilient people exhibit the following behaviors: a) make connections with other people; b) help other people and c) ask for help, when they need it.

Junior and Senior Academy players play team building games together

Junior and Senior Academy players play team building games together

 

I’m interested to hear your thoughts? Can resilience be coached / developed? What are the challenges? What has worked for you?

Rugby 4 Good – Values in Action #2: Try Makers, Not Just Try Scorers

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As in most team sports, in Rugby, a team wins by scoring more points than the opposition. The primary way to score points is by advancing the ball over the opposition goal line and touching it down on the field (pitch) ground; this is called a “Try”. What we’re going to do is look at how a team scores a try through working together, something vital for a try to be successful. My intent is for us to take this idea of teamwork off the pitch and into your office and your life. As will be evident in the following YouTube clip, in almost every instance when a try is scored, it’s really about “Try Makers, not just Try Scorers.”

On the pitch:

In basketball, hockey, and lacrosse, you can read up on stats for an “assist;” credit going to the one person responsible for passing the ball to the scorer. It’s a sports statistic for a reason—because it matters. In rugby however, this statistic doesn’t even exist. How is that possible? Because most tries are created by multiple assists, sometimes a continuous series of assists that can go on for a several-minute period before the try is eventually scored.

I want you to watch a quick version of this happening—the YouTube link below happens to be a clip of one of the greatest tries ever scored in an International rugby match. Added bonus—it was scored by the USA in the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Double bonus—you’ll find it entertaining whether you completely understand Rugby or not (I hope)! After you watch it, I’ll walk you through each of the key players involved and how it is a perfect example of “Try Makers, not just Try Scorers.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1g6Oeyx1Q8

Try Scorer: Okay, credit where credit is due, Takudzwa (Zee) Ngwenya, the Try Scorer, finished off the play with exceptional skills, footwork, and pace. (He actually ended up landing a contract in Europe off the back of his efforts and still plays professionally in France). Pure talent for sure, but let’s back up a bit and walk through the Try Makers involved—all of whom I had the genuine honor of playing alongside during my international career with the USA between 2003-2005…back when I was younger and fitter, of course!

Leader # 1: Todd Clever, appropriately enough, the current USA National Team Captain,  intercepts the ball against the odds on USA’s own goal line and aggressively advances the ball forward. He exhibits confidence and commitment to his decision. When faced with a barrier ahead, he assesses his options & forces it out of the way. However, he knows he can’t make it all the way on his own, so immediately looks for a teammate to take the ball forward from here, and assist’s the ball off to Alec Parker. Off the field, Todd is the equivalent: An entrepreneur that seized an opportunity, created a movement, and made it happen.

Try Maker #2: Alec Parker, who managed to notch up over 50 appearances for the USA was dubbed by his former teammate and then coach, Tom Billups, in 2007 as “One Hard Man.” Having played with and against Alec, let’s just say, I concur! He was one of the best “Try Makers” out there—and scored a few along the way, too—by doing the hard work. In this video Alec worked hard to get there and support Todd, trusting Todd to make the right decision (to pass). Alec then advances the ball forward himself before providing the glue to success of the whole play. Rather than choosing to take unnecessary contact and make a few extra yards, Alec selflessly passes on the ball to ‘assist’ Mike Hercus to take it from here.

Try Maker #3: Mike Hercus was the USA’s primary play-maker in 2007. In the clip he takes the assist from Alex, continues to go forward, but using his lightening quick reactions and peripheral vision, identifies an opportunity out wide. He immediately makes a long, well-executed lateral pass to assist (the 3rd assist so far in this Try in case you lost count) his teammate, and Try-Scorer, Zee. Zee works his magic and the rest, as they say, is history.

So, while Zee exhibited incredible skills, this try would not have been made possible without each of the player’s contributions to the try. This was a break-away try after a turnover, but many tries are the result of the entire team grafting and pulling together over a longer series of play.

In rugby, there is a role and a need for everyone; the best international team in the world, the New Zealand All Blacks, summarize this as “the team towers above the individual.” What other sports have a foundation as such?

So, what are the learning points from this off the field in order to achieve success as Try Makers, not just Try Scorers?

1) To be successful you need both leaders and supporters.

2) For an opportunity to be “game-changing,” leaders may have to react quickly, take initiative, and drive it forward, against the odds.

3) When the odds are stacked against you, you can’t, and thankfully don’t have to, make it alone.

4) Teamwork and support is vital to be successful, so you need an effectively balanced team.

5) The best teams put “Team First, Self Last.” Personal sacrifice if necessary to benefit the team.

6) The best teams trust each other and work hard together.

7) From trust and hard work comes camaraderie and success.

Look forward to your thoughts, and of course, please follow my blog if you enjoy the content you’re reading! My next Values in Action piece will explore the idea of “Play What you See.”

Rugby 4 Good – Values in Action #1: Go Forward

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Rugby is the only sport in the world where you have to advance the ball to the other end of the field in order to score, but you’re NOT allowed to pass the ball forward. Therefore, the only way to get the ball there is to go forward yourself: run forward, attack the opposition, create space, and gain territory while working with your supporting players to maintain possession of the ball. When coaching or watching young kids play rugby for the first time, “go forward” is something you’ll hear a lot!

In Rugby4Good terminology, Go Forward should also be relayed off the field. It is a great meta-theme for any Rugby4Good program or organization. Go Forward as we define it is to “Strive to improve, to experience growth, and to never give up“. This is a powerful message for a young person who may be facing adverse conditions on a regular basis. You (they) can’t control everything, but you can strive to be a better person, to make the most of your opportunities, to listen, to learn, and to develop. Combine this inquisitive desire for self improvement with a little grit and you have someone that is Going Forward!

Equally, Go Forward is a running theme in our social enterprise that can be applied to any business. We are continuously developing our curriculum, training programs, and overall program framework to intentionally maximize our youth development objectives. We work closely with our program partners to collaborate around achieving positive educational outcomes for our participants and on-going development opportunities for our respective staff. We regularly measure & evaluate our outcomes within a framework designed to achieve long-term social impact. In doing so, we face numerous challenges along the way around funding & budget cuts, space limitations, and policy changes, but we also identify and create opportunities determining ways to keep going forward.

Rugby4Good is about putting Values in Action – both on and off the field to create a culture of achievement. Here are seven ways to implement a Go Forward approach to your life or organization:

  1. Set an aspirational goal that is achievable in an ideal world.
  2. Identify your base-line. (Where are you now in relation to your goal)?
  3. Identify the steps you need to take to achieve the goal and set a time-line.
  4. What resources do you need to achieve each task?
  5. Who and what can help you secure those resources for each task?
  6. Start going forward with task #1.
  7. If you believe in your original goal, make it happen & don’t give up!