Scrum down to training success

The synergy between business and sport is compelling and when it comes to training and coaching our workforce, businesses should take a lesson or two from our sporting counterparts. Read on and get some useful tips on how to manage your training projects.

As a budding rugby coach and avid Bath Rugby fan, this time of year is exciting for me. The culmination of a season’s hard work and effort is laid bare in a handful of gruelling 80 minute playoff matches and celebrated in an array of glitzy black tie do’s and champagne receptions (well…pints of cider in plastic cups in my case!)

While I have been routing around for my glad-rags and preparing myself for the annual Bath Rugby Awards Dinner, I have been thinking about what it is that has led to Bath’s fantastic season this year. Obviously outstanding performances from the likes of George Ford and Jonathan Joseph have played a part, not forgetting the unfailing leadership of Stuart Hooper. But as a rugby coach myself I cannot overlook the unfaltering execution of what is quite a unique training programme led by the coaching staff at Bath Rugby. The synergy between business and sport is compelling and when it comes to training and coaching our workforce, businesses should take a lesson or two from our sporting counterparts. Bath Rugby has proven to us that no matter how competent and skilled your staff or your players are, people rely on effective training and coaching in order to perform exceptionally.

So here are 9 top tips on how to approach training and coaching in the workplace from a very rugby-mad business consultant:

Have a strategy 

Bath Rugby did not become one of the finest teams in the Premiership overnight. Sports teams build a strategy so that over a number of years they can grow and develop both their coaches and their players to become the best performers in the league. Training and coaching mustbe part of a business’ strategy and needs to be imbedded, in a sustainable way, in the long term plan for the future.

Let your team set the direction of their training and coaching 

Last November Stuart Hooper delivered an outstanding presentation at one of our Rugby Business Networking Events. He explained that it was the players –not the coaches – that decided what skills to work on each week based on the team’s performance in the previous game. It is important to connect with your teams and identify what their training needs and requirements are that will enable them to do their job successfully. A training needs analysis (TNA) must be foundation on which you build your training programme.

Effective training requires an effective trainer

The coaching at Bath Rugby is a team effort but everybody – from the physio to the line-out coach is a specialist in their own field. It is vital to have the right training team in place, who have the specific skills, knowledge and experience to impart on your workforce.

Prioritise what is important and immediate 

Last week I attended an event at Bath Rugby and heard Mike Ford speaking about the remaining matches this season. When asked about the upcoming playoffs he explained that the team only concentrate on one game at a time and their preparation is focussed solely on winning the most immediate match. Training and coaching in the workplace needs to be broken down into chunks and then prioritised by what is most important and time-urgent. It is all too easy to overload people with information that they do not need and you risk losing sight of the key skills or knowledge that they actually require.

The Captain’s Run 

Before each game, Bath Rugby will do a final ‘Captain’s Run’ to work through any moves or tactics one last time. When delivering training in the workplace it is vital to pilot the sessions prior to roll-out in order to perfect the content and delivery. Not only does this give you an opportunity to trial your training session with an audience but enables you to test the training materials, spot any mistakes and ensure that the processes, language and terminology is all correct.


I am a big fan of a demonstrations both when coaching rugby and delivering training. It is crucial to show your audience what ‘success’ should look like- whether that is a move at the back of the scrum or navigating around a CRM system.

Problem solve 

As part of my level one coaching course I was told that a good coach only ‘coaches’ about 10% of the time. The other 90% should be spent facilitating the players to come up with the solutions to their own problems by asking lots of questions and giving the team the opportunity to come up with the answers themselves. Mike Ford rightly said that he isn’t on the pitch on match day so his players must be able to adjust their game plan on their own. Find ways to make your training sessions interactive and provide opportunities for your audience to solve real-life problems. We take in 90% of what we say and do so giving your audience a reason to think and feedback will enhance their learning considerably.

Evaluate and review 

Following every Bath Rugby game the players analyse their own performance to identify areas to improve. Post-game analysis sits at the heart of a team’s development and we should approach the review and evaluation of our training with as much importance. Getting users to complete an evaluation at the end of their training is valuable as is regular quality assurance of the training content, materials and delivery. Training should be treated as a living process and should be continually evaluated and updated appropriately.

Measure success

Success in sport is usually measured by the black or white of a win or a loss however there are many other ways that sports teams measure and celebrate achievement. For some it may be statistically how many turnovers did the player win or how many meters did they run however events such as the Bath Annual Awards dinner this week reward players and coaches for their qualitative success; who has contributed to the community; who has shown good leadership; who has improved the most? It is so important for businesses to measure the success of their training programmes both quantitatively and qualitatively and like always we urge you to find exciting and novel ways to reward that achievement as well.

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