Serve On is proud to be helping England Rugby develop the future stars of the game with a series of unique off-field activities.
Over the past year, in partnership with Mitsubishi Motors, England Rugby has exposed some of its most promising young players to a number of off-the-pitch experiences designed to develop their self-awareness, communication and leadership skills.
They have been taken out of their comfort zones and challenged to adapt their thinking to work with different personalities and learn how to get the best out of each other in varying situations focused around three annual activities which they labelled 'Earthquakes', 'Big Brother' and 'Grange Hill'.
We can now tell how, in January, we provided the 'Earthquakes' element of their training when a group of leading Under-20s players spent three days with us being put through various search and rescue scenarios.
Later in the year the players lived together in a 'Big Brother'-style house, where they were set more challenges, and then the 'Grange Hill' element saw them spend two days at Thomas Becket school, refurbishing the sixth-form, creating a mosaic for the school front and producing a promotional video.
On their visit to our Chilmark training centre, the young men, some of whom are already on the books of Premiership rugby sides, were thrown straight into the action having been told details of earthquake scenario they had been pitched into and the roles they would be playing..
Just as the England Women's Rugby squad would do some weeks later, in preparation for their World Cup campaign, the young men were briefed on a series of 'disaster' situations, in a collapsing house, on a rubble pile and in tunnels, and then had to carry out the rescues.
In spite of the fact that many of them were still at school, the training staff could not help but comment on the stature of the young giants, and marvel at some of the rescue spaces they managed to get into...and out of.
The following day it was the turn of the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service to be their generous hosts at Salisbury fire station as Serve On and FRS staff put them through more exercises, including a timed obstacle course which took them through a flooded pit and really brought out their competitive nature.
Throughout the exercises, the hugely impressive players were not only enthusiastic and keen to learn but polite and respectful, displaying many of the values Serve On shares with England Rugby.
Serve On IRT member and ambassador Pete Dunning said: "Working with the England rugby lads was a great experience. As an ex rugby player myself, and a huge rugby fan, it was great to chat to some of the lads and ask about their training regime, what they have to do every week.
"It was quite an eye opener. Obviously they want to be first team players and future England stars so they have to put the hard work in behind the scenes as well.
"Overall it was a great few days with them. We had good fun with them and I'd like to think that they got something out of it."
Dean Ryan, head of international player development at the RFU told the England Rugby website: "Once you are in a Premiership environment it is pretty difficult to stop and reflect, so hopefully these activities will come at the right time to help support the players to be aware of what characteristics will be required of them to be successful at the highest level.
“We wanted the activities to be unique and experience-led and compress experiences we have in life. We don’t want to define the end point, we want to create environments where people could develop and learn as well express themselves at their own pace.”
Saracens forward Ben Earl, who was also a member of England’s World Rugby U20 Championship squad in the summer, says the three activities have had a meaningful impact on his development.
“The first activity was about learning about yourself,” said Earl. “We were set some physically demanding challenges such as carrying people through fragile buildings and getting people out of tunnels as well as dealing with an earthquake-hit environment."
Earl, who also helped England U20s to Six Nations glory earlier in the year, added: “It’s all about developing as an individual and building those off-pitch relationships so that you work hard for each other on it.
“You can only do that by understanding how others operate. When you are in those tough moments on the pitch, whether you are a try down or a man down, you need to be able to co-operate, communicate and work under pressure.”
Lance Bradley, Managing Director of Mitsubishi Motors in the UK, told the England Rugby website: “We are proud to support England Rugby in developing the next generation of elite players. Our staff have been directly involved with these camps, working alongside the players to help them learn and develop, and it is fascinating to be a part of this innovative and pioneering project."
The activities, including the training with Serve On, were put together by Leading Edge, and owner director Patrick Marr said: “Creating and delivering valuable life learning experiences condensed into a few days, that raise self-awareness and gives the guys new skills has been an exciting challenge for us this year.
"We’re proud to have been able to bring our experience from global business and leadership development and have been impressed by the commitment of the players and support staff to really making a change.”
The RFU say these activities will continue into 2018 and Dean Ryan believes the players will benefit from the experiences both on and off the pitch.
“We wanted to make sure, through the different elements we were able to experience and capture, that we could connect with the players outside rugby to offer support and a plan of how to develop,” he said.