Is rugby making progress?

Last Sunday I was privileged to attend the Ireland New Zealand (All Blacks) rugby international at the Aviva Stadium. Fantastic match, wonderful atmosphere, great standard and Ireland were pipped at the last minute by the World Champions.  One of the best sporting events I have attended – without question. And the occasion showed the Aviva off to its best – and no one could question the ‘atmosphere’ at the stadium – it was ‘electric’.

And there have been several fantastic days with Leinster, Munster and Ulster over the last number of years.

But then this morning I read about Blackrock Rugby Club and its problems.  And these are compared and contrasted with the growth and success of Cuala GAA (and reference to my own Club Kilmacud Crokes).

I think back to my playing rugby in Belvedere College, Trinity College and Old Belvedere.  I played schools rugby and, afterwards, junior rugby with TCD and OBRFC.  Great years – and many matches against Blackrock (not against the stars – Slattery, Duggan, etc., but against fellow junior rugby players, followed by lots of craic afterwards in Stradbrook, the Pav or Anglesea Road). I have fantastic memories of junior club rugby and the friendships formed over many years.  And when I played the guys who played on the first XV (or even at representative level) were just better than me.  But generally we felt part of the same organisation, sport, club.

Now my kids play football, camogie and hurling with Kilmacud Crokes – another set of friendships for them and for me.  Lots of the same type of endeavour – coaching, fundraising, àdmin, etc. I thought rugby was thriving also – with huge numbers playing mini rugby.  But I wonder.

Cuala and Crokes are examples of two clubs bulging at the seams – with massive intake of young boys and girls each year.  They are both looking for new and upgraded facilities.  There is huge demand for mid week, flood-lit training facilities – in order to enable teams to train through late autumn, winter and early spring.  There are only so many slots available between, say, 6.30 and 9.30 – Monday to Friday.  And during the winter all-weather or weather-proof pitches are critical to managing the logistics associated with bad weather.

And the current levels of growth are spurred on by Dublin’s current levels of achievement in Men’s senior football and hurling.  Significant growth in numbers of girls playing football and camogie is also driving demand for facilities – Ladies Football being one of the great success stories of the last 10/15 years.

Rugby has all the required success stories – Ulster, Munster and Leinster.  It has the stars – Brian O’Driscoll being the outstanding one.  It has the tradition of Schools Cup rugby.  Mini rugby and tag rugby have been great successes.  So what’s the problem – or is there one?

Om first examination the Dublin football team removes Club players from the fold in much the same way that Leinster removes players from the Club scene.  In GAA circles postponement of Club Championship matches until the county players return is a constant source of debate/ argument. But there is a difference – the GAA players return, they do not have employment contracts with Dublin and at all times remain part of the club.  Presumably there must be mixed emotions in a rugby club as they lose someone to the professional game – to return when?  Nowadays much of the top talent skips the club scene – joining elite squads from schools rugby or via third level scholarships.

I have no issue with professional sport.  In rugby this is what is producing the excitement (and the standard) of the Heineken Cup etc.  But how to maintain and sustain club rugby? This does not seem to have been resolved.  When Cuala and Kilmacud look to develop new facilities – they will first look to their members and their communities to assist with fundraising – but I have no doubt that the GAA itself will support these initiatives – the GAA recognises that development in the community, at club level, player development (at all levels) is the future of the organisation.  I would expect the IRFU to be in the same position – but I wonder whether it is.  It’s not a question about the merits of paying players. Presumably professional rugby should be capable of generating much greater TV revenues – given international coverage.  But it may be a question of looking to divert greater percentages of the cake to supporting and sustaining the amateur organisation that is club rugby.

If professional rugby is to be fed by the schools then does it need club rugby?  I think this is the nub of the question.  In spite of all the words used the reality is that club rugby is effectively in competition with professional rugby.  The Clubs play a role at mini rugby level and in offering playing opportunities to players not attending rugby playing schools.  But ultimately the professional sides are happy to talent spot and recruit at schools level (or via sponsored contacts at University level).

I have great memories of playing adult sport – rugby, cricket, hockey, golf (ongoing), indoor soccer. Sport is great for kids – for any number of reasons.  But I would be very keen to see more adults continue to play after school.  If rugby or GAA finds itself struggling on this front then this needs to be addressed – we need more people playing (whatever sport they choose) for longer.

Right now I wonder whether rugby is getting it right – in terms of the balance between Schools, Club and professional sides.  As a game it offers so much – it still accommodates people of different physical attributes more effectively than many other sports.

Perhaps ultimately amateur rugby will have to establish itself as a separate organisation – with its own objectives.  We have professional and amateur golf – and it seems to work.  Rugby is a great game – perhaps amateur rugby needs to find itself and reestablish its attractiveness and its own energy.  There may be new opportunities going forward for greater cooperation between clubs and schools – on the basis that schools may only have a limited appetite for sending their pupils into professional sport.

I am delighted to see Cuala, our local GAA rivals, expanding and developing their facilities.  I would also like to see Blackrock expanding and thriving (although obviously less so than Old Belvedere, given my own allegiances!).  And more facilities for all other sports – basketball, soccess, hockey, whatever.  For amateur rugby, I hope it finds a way forward quickly.  It may have to do this with less support than anticipated from the professional game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hunger Games

Just finished listening to ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins (downloaded via www.audio.co.uk).  The book it reminded me of was WIlliam Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’.

I did not think it was nearly as good a book.  But I thought it created some of the same uneasiness/ tension about behaviour of young people in extraordinary situations.

I thought the plot was weak, the characterisation very limited and all in all found the book very disappointing – given the hype.  But perhaps that is the issue – the hype has taken over.  I look forward to watching the movie – but am not very optimistic.

 

 

 

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Football coaching sessions and meetings

Have been thinking recently about how we structure a one hour football coaching session as against we run many of our business meetings.

The coaching session – potentially 3 or 4 coaches working with 40 players.  In advance we agree session objectives and roles to be undertaken by each coach in the session.  Perhaps open with 15 mins of warm up and stretching, move to three or four bases – rotate the players through the bases and close out with two mini games – probably with rules/ scoring systems altered to emphasise a particular skill.

We seek to ensure that players enjoy the sessions, that skills are developed and/or tested, that we simulate match situations.  We promote fairness, safety, creativity.

For a meeting may have 4-8 participants, a pre circulated agenda and pre circulated minutes of previous meeting.  Probably also allocate one hour for the meeting.  We spend 15 mins working though previous minutes and action lists, leaving 45 minutes to address the items listed on the agenda.  In theory the meeting should be a lot easier – smaller numbers, advance communication of what will be happening.  But, in my experience the meetings are no where nearly as successful as the one hour coaching sessions.  Why?

Unfortunately many meetings are not focused – what is the objective (or are the objectives) of the meeting?  Why are we meeting?  Do we accomplish our objectives?

The football session will start on time and finish on time.  Players will be active and play many roles.  Players will be tested.  Players will learn.  Many meeting start late, run late, are dominated by longwinded contributions from those who ignore (possibly do not understand) the purpose of the meeting.  and there is no coach to ‘spot and fix’.

I think members of committees who meet on a regular basis have a lot to learn from well structured football (or other sport) coaching.  Meetings need to be born again in many orgnisations.

 

 

 

Are we dumbing things down?

Reading this piece in the NY Times would not encourage you.  Is this more of the same?  Have students so many distractions, such high expectations, that traditional study no longer gets traction as an idea?  And have the Universities, in recognition of this, dumbed things down?  Or is this simply some distorted thinking of people who are getting ‘long in the tooth’?

We read a great deal now about the importance of collaboration – and that education needs to incorporate plenty of this.  The authors have some interesting comments in this respect – collaboration seems to afford  students the opportunity to skip what they don’t like or what they find difficult.  Perhaps in this we are missing a trick?

 

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Making the cloud/ data centre move pay

It has struck me that in most cases of corporates ‘moving to the cloud’ they are left with a certain amount of on-campus technology – and for many good reasons, including file&print, legacy apps not moving to the cloud, specific security concerns. But do the same corporates target the required savings – in terms of reducing the space allocated, the requirement for air-conditioning, decommissioning older servers? William Clifford address this very point in his article in Forbes. Savings do not just happen – they need to be targeted and managed.

Influencers and non influencers

Interesting piece this morning by Lucy Kellaway: Replying to customers on Twitter is listening gone mad.

Ms. Kellaway references Starbucks’ efforts to respond to twitter criticism. She includes reference to her own tweet going unanswered (for at least 20+ hours).

I presume those attempting to monitor and respond to social networking comment re their business will be inclined to apply some form of the 80/20 rule – e.g. deal with a criticism that appears particularly damaging, deal with a criticism from a perceived influencer. Not really any different to dealing with other forms of criticism. It seems to be perfectly logical that criticism from a person with a large following may have to be dealt with first.

To the broader question – are corporates wasting management and/or other time in monitoring and attempting to deal with social networking type criticism I think not. And I think they have little choice but to monitor, assess, rate, learn, address.

a national CTO

Seems incoming President Obama is considering appointment of a CTO for the US.  Not that surprising when you remember how effectively the Obama campaign used technology in the case to the White House.  But perhaps we could benefit from following this idea in Ireland – as we look to up our ranking in the R&D world.  Undoubtedly we have made real progress in areas such as ROS.  However there continune to be opportunities to streamline how the citizen and businesses interact with government.

Rush to the cloud

Could not agree more with this comment why all this talk about cloud services . I think this was all well underway when we experienced the 'dotbomb' failure in 2000/2001.  Current economic issues have nothing to do with IT.  This time the tools are better, adoption is greater, the MS/google/ amazon race is driving the suppliers, bandwidth is cheaper.  The latest releases from MS e.g. www.azure.com are pushing things forward.