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  • Writer's pictureRenée Watson

South African Rugby's winning ingredient

In the wake of the biggest of the Big Games in the world of rugby, it seems a great excuse to fuse two of my favourite things…science and sport. Whether it be the physics of ball flight (I am sure Johnny Wilkinson was secretly a physicist), the nutrition and anatomy of elite athletes or the tech behind VAR you can unpick oodles of science in this glorious game. We can talk about the power of the scrum, the ball from half and the composure but I’m sure it was team cohesion, a fascinating and game changing psychology of sport, that was the real driving force behind South Africa’s win.

This year has been a big one for me…one of the biggest highs was back in May when I represented Europe at the Touch Rugby World Cup. As captain of a team, pulled together from all over the globe, rather last minute, I set out to do the one thing I thought would make the biggest difference – I used a What’s App group! Sure the fitness, strength and conditioning was pretty important but getting to know and trust each other, to build relationships and connections had to be fast tracked. We shared the things that matter to us in life and some of our quirks. We used visualisation and team photo challenges to ensure that when we arrived on site in Kuala Lumpur 3 days before the tournament, the first time our whole team would be on the pitch together, we felt like old friends! Above all we wanted to prove that women over 35 can still be strong, powerful and successful in sport.

Team cohesion helped us to hit the ground running, to improve fast and to grow individually and as a team. In sport, as in work, the more we can understand and play to each other’s strengths the more we can map out the most likely path to success. But team cohesion comes from something far more than a collection of talent, it comes from having a shared vision that individuals feel deeply connected to, that they know cannot be achieved alone and that is bigger than the immediate goal. This weekend the winning ingredient for South Africa was hope. A clear realisation that their performance would bring hope to people back home at a time when hope is in desperately short supply.

The parallels between sport and business push me to be constantly learning in both. At Curiosity Box, everything we do is about bringing the wonder of science to life for kids. I believe that living with our curiosity alight, brings happiness and a sense of gratitude for this amazing world we live in, that can be life changing. It is this vision that helps us get through the tumbling lows that are commonplace in the life of a new business. I hope that the young, immensely talented England Rugby team too, will lift themselves up from this defeat and take the next 4 years to solidify their “why”.

Whether you are part of a sports team, a school, a business or a family you will inevitably have talented individuals, but the teams that succeed are the ones that feel connected to each other and to making an impact. I was so inspired by the follow up interviews with the South African captain Siya Kolisi (you can see an extract here) , their message was clear – if we work together, on something bigger than ourselves, we can make a difference, we can give hope. Surely that is a message that can give hope to us all.

Women's 35s Eurostars 2019

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