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5 career skills you will learn from rugby

Microsoft News 18/09/2015 Paul Boross
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With the Rugby World Cup kicking off, there's a feast of sport on offer for fans of the game. But rugby isn't just about entertainment - there's plenty it can teach you about the qualities you need to succeed in your career and life in general, too. Here are five main points to take away:

Team work

Jason Leonard, the former England Rugby Captain, says, “Everything in a scrummage is ultimately team work because you are turning round and saying to your mate, I am with you, I won’t let you down. I can look someone in the eye and say I am right beside you, that is what a scrum is all about.”

Saying that you can learn about teamwork from rugby seems a bit obvious, really. After all, it’s a team sport. However, it’s not until you get on the pitch that you realise just how it works. If you expect to be a superstar player, if you expect to do what you want and take all the credit, you’ll get hit, you’ll get tripped and you’ll get hurt, because your focus is in the wrong place. The only way to survive is to rely on your team mates, and no matter how bad things seem, there are always people who are willing to help you. All you have to do is reach out and grab the hand that’s offering to pull you up.


Communication is important in everything we do, because it’s what sets us apart as a species. In rugby, if you don’t communicate you get hurt, it’s as simple as that. You might have an idea about where you’re heading, but if you don’t find a way to communicate your intentions, you either get left behind or trampled on. Communication is the conduit for team work, and I think one of the most valuable lessons to learn is that we’re always communicating, whether we like it or not. We can’t hide away and have a quite moment, because even that communicates something to other people. Once you’re connected with someone, you’re forever communicating, so you might as well make your message something worth hearing.

You can probably imagine a rugby team, before a game, communicating with each other about their strategy, tactics, fears, doubts and so on. Yet much more subtle and potentially more important is the communication that goes on during a game. The way that a strong team of players can communicate their intentions to each other with just a glance can give them a tangible edge over their opponents, and they know that, in order to be first across the line, they don’t have to be yards ahead, they only have to be one step ahead. A tiny lead, communicated throughout the game, makes a huge difference.


In a game of rugby, the whole direction of the game can change in an instant, and you have to be ready to take advantage of that. In life, people think they’re stuck with their problems, when in fact, you can change anything you want as quickly as you want.

Sammy is one of the young men who turned his life around through his experience of rugby. He said, “It’s more than what you think it is, it’s not just rugby, it’s life, you can change whatever you want to do in your life and the amazing thing is how quickly you can change, it just like that, with a click of the finger. If you stay positive and stay strong, the future is bright”.


Mark Prince, a former light heavyweight boxing champion tragically lost his son to knife crime and became a campaigner for knife safety. He says, “Life can bang you up. What are you going to do? Are you going to throw in the towel? Are you going cut your wrists? Are you going to drink yourself into a stupor? You need to remember that you’re still living, you’ve still got life, if I can do it then anybody can”.

It’s so easy, when we’re faced with what seem like insurmountable problems, to want to throw in the towel. We walk out on a relationship rather than working at it, or we leave a job rather than focusing on our goals. We even throw things away rather than repair them, and what seems like an easy option now is never easy in the long run, because you’re not tackling the underlying reasons for your problems. People who have faced dramatic challenges in life learn to get up, shake themselves off and carry on.

Research has shown that one of the traits that helps people to be more resilient in life is a strong sense of humour. Being able to step back and look at a bad situation in a different light really does make the difference between wallowing in self pity and picking yourself up, shaking yourself down and moving on.


In a game of rugby, it often looks like the players on opposing sides are out for blood. Some of the tackles seem surprisingly rough, and of course players can suffer serious physical injuries from the game. This might make it look like the players have no respect for their opponents, yet the opposite is true. If players lack respect for their opposite numbers, they will fall into the trap of underestimating them, which gives their opponents a clear advantage. Always assume that your opponents are better than you, and that playing them will give you an opportunity to improve. We can’t learn anything from playing within our comfort zone, and of course I’m not just talking about rugby, I’m talking about any competitive situation in life. When you respect your opponents, you are respecting yourself.

How can these skills help you to succeed in the job market? The reality is that finding a job is a competitive process, and it’s something you can’t do alone. There are always more people willing and able to help you than you think possible, and if you open yourself up to that idea then new opportunities will present themselves to you.

Ultimately, what all of these skills can help you to understand is that, on the rugby pitch, your competitor is not the player in the other team, and in a job search, your competitor is not the other candidate.

Your competitor is yourself. Master that, and there’s no stopping you. 

Paul Boross is “The Pitch Doctor”, an internationally recognised authority on communications, presentation, performance and “the art and science of persuasion”, and appears regularly on worldwide conference programmes, at international television and media events and in feature articles. Paul has worked with many executives in a range of organisations such as the BBC, Google, The Financial Times, Barclays and MTV, as well as public figures such as Sir Richard Branson, Ainsley Harriott and Sky newscaster, Dermot Murnaghan.

Paul is the resident team psychologist and presenter on the on-going SKY TV series School of Hard Knocks. Paul has now authored three books; The Pitching Bible, The Pocket Pitching Bible and Pitch Up! Visit to learn more.

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