Lessons from the pitch: Welsh rugby star talks resilience

The game of rugby ends when the time is up, not when the players have had enough. Welsh rugby star Scott Quinnell and motivational psychologist Paul Boross discuss the art of resilience. 

The world of socially responsible enterprise can create conflict between the commercial needs of the organisation and the social needs of the people both inside and outside of it. Of course, those needs do not have to be mutually exclusive, yet sometimes, for leaders and entrepreneurs, it can seem like you’re swimming against the tide.

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

Life is going to throw obstacles in your way, and there’s no easy way to learn the most important lessons. What determines success is how quickly you can get going again. Whether it’s a rugby tackle or an investor interview or a business pitch, it’s not your body that gets you back on your feet – it’s your mind, and there are some ways that you can learn to do that.

Scott Quinnell and Paul Boross

Scott Quinnell and Paul Boross

Sammy, one of the disadvantaged young men we worked with, said: “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."

We create stories about our lives, and those stories become a reality that can seem hard to change. Whether you see yourself as a winner or a victim, you’ve made that your reality, and all you have to do is change the story.

Mark Prince, a former boxing champion who tragically lost his son to knife crime and became a campaigner for knife safety says: "Life can bang you up. What are you going to do? Are you going to throw in the towel? You need to remember that you’re still living, you’ve still got life, if I can do it then anybody can."

The game of rugby ends when the time is up, not when the players have had enough. If you see failure as an end, you will stop. What you need is a bigger goal, something beyond your current position. It’s easy to assume that anyone running a socially responsible organisation would have that bigger goal always in mind, but it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important when you’re solving day to day problems.

The easiest thing to do when you’ve taken a wrong turn 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 to worry about!

No-one ever achieved anything big by themselves. 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. 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 motivational psychologist, media consultant and internationally acclaimed keynote speaker. Scott Quinnell is a former rugby player, who played in 52 international games for the Welsh national team and two British and Irish Lions Tours. Paul Boross and Scott Quinnell’s new book Leader on the Pitch is out now and available on Amazon here.