Career Success Lessons Learned on the Rugby Pitch

I’m a retired rugby player.  I played my first match at Penn State in 1968 and my last in Vail, CO on my 60th birthday in 2010.  I love the game.  Most of my friends have some sort of rugby connection.  I get together with old rugby mates the last Thursday of every month.  We have lunch and swap a few lies about how good we were 30 years ago.  I mention this because I have found that there are some great life and career success lessons that can be learned on the rugby pitch.

If you stand on the sidelines at a rugby match, “with you” are two of the words you’ll hear the players saying to one another most often.  The off sides law is a reason for this.

In rugby, the off sides law state that all of the players on the team with the ball must be behind the person who is carrying the ball.  This means, that unlike American football, there is no blocking.  In fact, if an offensive player comes between a defender and the person with the ball, he or she is assessed a penalty for obstruction.

You might be asking “if you can’t block, or even shield the ball carrier, how do you support him or her?”  The answer is simple – you support the ball carrier by being “with” him or her.  The ideal supporting position is approximately four or five yards to the right or left of, and a step or step and a half behind the ball carrier.

This creates two very good options for the ball carrier.  As a defender is approaching and about to tackle the ball carrier, he or she can pass to the person in support.  Or, the ball carrier can “dummy” the defender – fake a pass to the person in support and continue running up the pitch.  If you are familiar with American football, the option play is based on a similar concept.

Rugby is a fluid game with possession changing frequently.  Therefore, supporting the ball carrier is absolutely necessary for success.  That’s why you will see rugby players running very hard to get into the ideal supporting position and calling out “with you” once they are there.  In this way, they are letting the ball carrier know that they are in position and that he or she has the option of passing to them, or dummying the opposition and continue to run with the ball.

In my career, I’ve learned the value of supporting my colleagues and coworkers.  I find the right supporting position, and then I let them know I am there if needed.  On the rugby pitch, when the ball carrier hears “with you”, he or she knows that his or her teammate is in the appropriate supporting position and that he or she can pass the ball to him or her.  On good rugby teams, the level of trust is high, because the players know they can count on one another to “be there” when they say they are.  Everybody focuses on doing his or her job, because they have the faith that all of their teammates are doing theirs.

The same is true when it comes to career success.  The best way to support a colleague or coworker is to just do your job.  In this way, your colleagues have the confidence that comes from knowing that you will be in position to accept the handoff when the time comes.

Practice “being there” — in the right supporting position – for your colleagues and coworkers.  If you do, you’ll earn their trust, and a trust is the basis of all successful work and life relationships.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  If you want to create the life and career success you deserve, you have to become known as a trust coworker and colleague.  Just like in rugby, you need to support those around you, so you can all be successful.  You need to trust that they’ll do their job, just as they need to trust you’ll do yours.  Remember the career advice in Tweet 132 in my career success book, Success Tweets.  “Trust is the glue that holds relationships together.  The more you demonstrate trust in others the more they will trust you.”  This is true on the rugby pitch and at work.

That’s some of the career advice I picked up playing rugby.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my daily thoughts on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, I suggest that you check out my career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: Have you seen my membership site, My Corporate Climb?  It’s devoted to helping people just like you create career success inside large corporations.  You can find out about it by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.


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