Be rugby resilient: How to get back up when you’ve been knocked down

Paul Boross with Will Greenwood, left, and Scott Quinnell

By Paul Boross

We’ve all faced setbacks in life, and we all know people who seem to give up at the first obstacle. The ability to pick yourself up and carry on is becoming a hot topic in the world of business and personal development training, and you can find books, training courses and networking groups that focus on developing your resilience.

I’ve been working with Sky TV’s rugby-based show School of Hard Knocks for a few years, and one thing that I see every year is a group of young men who literally have to learn to get up when they get knocked down.

Whether it’s a rugby tackle or a job interview or a bank loan application, it’s not your body that gets you back on your feet – it’s your mind, and there are some easy ways that you can learn to do that.

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.”

It seems that we tell ourselves stories about our lives, and those stories create a reality that can seem hard to change. Whether you see yourself as a winner or a victim, you’ve made that your reality.

Mark Prince, a former boxing champion 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”.

Is it true? It doesn’t matter, it’s a story that enables Mark to keep going despite terrible circumstances.

When a rugby or football player falls down, does the game end? No. The game ends when time is up, so the players have to get up and keep going. If you see a rejection or failure as an end, you’ll give up. All you need is a bigger goal, something that will take a lot of work to achieve and something that will be worth everything you’ve put into achieving it.

The easiest thing to do when you’ve taken a wrong turn or made a mistake is to beat yourself up about it. You probably think that’s better than having other people do it, but the reality is that no-one cares about your mistakes, they’ve got their own mistakes to worry about. Once you realise that no-one is judging you, you’ll find it easier to move on.

No-one ever achieved anything big by themselves, they had a team, or a family, or friends to help them. Maybe your friends will help you in some practical way, maybe they’ll be a shoulder to lean on or someone to let off steam with in the pub. The most important thing is to remember that you are not alone, and all you have to do is ask for help.

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 business, your competitor is not the other company. Your competitor is yourself. Master that, and you’re unstoppable.

Paul Boross is “The Pitch Doctor”, an internationally recognised authority on communications, presentation, performance and “the art and science of persuasion”. He is the resident team psychologist and presenter on the on-going SKY TV series School of Hard Knocks.