The use of technology has become a fundamental part in the development of team culture and values for the England Under 20 rugby squad. During one of the team’s training camps held in Bristol, the players, management and support team all used Turning Technologies student response clickers as part of their morning training session.
Former National Academy Coach, Nigel Redman, believes that team spirit and values are what create success, and ultimately win games. Redman understood this as a former England player, and during his time as coach for the England Under 20 team. “Often in sport, we talk about values, but we donʼt live by them,” said Redman. “I am passionate about how I want to build these into the team.”
The use of TurningPoint was fundamental in helping the players and backroom staff define what they see as the culture and core values within the team. For Redman, this is critical, especially for a team under pressure. He believes a strong set of values and a strong team culture must remain, regardless of the situation. But it takes time to build a culture and this session was about identifying what the players believed in and what they felt was important to creating a winning culture.
Groups of players each came up with a core set of values ranging from honesty, respect, belief, self-discipline, commitment, trust, determination and pride. They then discussed these with the rest of the room. The emphasis was on the behaviours that underpin these values and the fact that it is every playerʼs responsibility to support them.
As part of this session, Redman put up a series of interactive multiple-choice questions covering topics like principles, choices, challenges and opportunities using TurningPoint polling software. Each player used hand-held clickers to score each question from lowest to highest. Responses were logged quickly and anonymously. The players felt confident in making their choices without their teammates knowing what they were.
Data was quickly collated and analysed in graphs that were instantly available to show patterns of behaviour. Redman said, “For the Under 20 squad, who are now coached by Mark Mapletoft, TurningPoint allowed me to identify areas which needed work, but also provided opportunities for more open discussion and individual comment, especially from the younger members of the squad who might otherwise feel anxious about raising issues in a group situation.”
One of the most important and perhaps interesting areas for the coaching staff was during the personal challengesʼ part of the session. During this time, players were asked to rank core skills in order of priority using the student response clickers. The same exercise for team challengesʼ was conducted. Players were asked to rank the team alongside this same set of skills. While the results were not displayed on screen during this session, data was analysed off-site by the management team.
Redman believes that TurningPoint provides value on two distinct levels. While it is interesting to see what the playersʼ general views are, it is even more interesting to see how those views may differ in the future, when compared to the same questions posed at previous training camps. The second value is about identifying patterns of responses to questions, especially among different players from different clubs, and even among players in different positions on the team.
Redman is especially conscious that the players rarely get together as a team and so it is important for them to act as a team and assess each other when together. “TurningPoint is really helping us achieve greater team bonding, by allowing the team to be honest about the challenges and issues they face, and about their development both as individual players and as part of the bigger team.”
For Redman, the focus during future training camps will be on those core values as they underpin everything they do as a team and which will ultimately deliver success. In future sessions, he will take those values and mark each player against each one. The players will then be asked to score themselves and the differences noted and discussed.
In the past, such exercises would have used traditional pen and paper, with the papers collected and assessed later on. For the management team, it was beneficial to have a simple hand-held tool that can provide an instant display of responses.