Virtual coffee meetings with Metis Ireland
Part four: When is a business owner like a rugby player?

At Metis Ireland we’ve just held our latest Virtual Coffee session for business leaders. Once again, it was a brilliant line-up of speakers, each with a short, punchy few minutes of key insight.
This time the focus was on the lessons we can learn from sport in this challenging period. Once more, we’d like as many people as possible to benefit, so we’re turning each talk into a blog.
So, over to Jack O’Donoghue, a Waterford man who you’ll know best as a professional Munster and Ireland rugby player. As we share his experience of training in lockdown we promise we’ll try to avoid rugby clichés, as we tackle the lessons that business can learn from sport.

When plans just stop

Back at the beginning of spring, Jack was well into Ireland’s Six Nations campaign. Then on 10 March, everything changed. All future matches were postponed and players were required to head home. As it became clear that COVID-19 wasn’t going away any time soon, the order came through to train remotely.
Now, if you’re a boxer, or a cyclist, training remotely might sound ok. But a rugby player? When your entire profession is built around teamwork, how on earth do you replicate that? Well, you don’t – you adapt. Much like the experience many of us are going through in business, all the Zoom meetings in the world won’t replicate what you’re used to. What’s important is to find ways to carry on working as ‘normally as possible’.

The power of routine

For Jack, a big part of this was routine. When plans get dramatically shunted off course, it can be natural to feel a bit disconnected. But allowing yourself to drift is a mistake – routine is more important than ever. Even though the format of training changed, Jack was careful to keep the routine element in place, getting up at the same time, training in the same way each day, keeping body and mind used to a set way of working. Maintaining as much continuity as possible is important.

Visualise, practice, and repeat

Of course the mechanics of training changed – it’s hard to do a lineout or a scrum with one person, so the important skills were visualisation and repetition. In the same way that a fighter can shadow box, visualising many types of opponent in a single session, Jack turned his not inconsiderable rugby brain to train to hypothetical situations. He repeated drills and manoeuvres until they were second nature, keeping both mind and muscle memory in good shape.
Even though some match fitness will inevitably ebb in a period like this, keeping as close to fully functional as possible is important so you can hit the ground running when you come back. You can’t replicate the muscle development and resilience that would normally come from full-contact training, but we all need to focus on what we can do, not what we can’t.

Learning to prioritise again

Another useful thing to come out of this period was that Jack took a whole new approach to priorities. In ‘business as usual’ we can set priorities by date – short, medium, long-term – because we generally have an inkling of when things will happen in our projected timelines. Not so with lockdown. Until recently we didn’t know when rules would be relaxed and we still don’t know how things will pan out from here.
Jack realised that it’s important to prioritise the things that will be most necessary in getting back to business. For Jack, it was ‘pre-hab’ – resolving any injuries completely and keeping himself in the best physical shape possible.

Honest reflection

Finally, Jack has used the time so far to focus on reflection, which is probably the biggest lesson that we as business owners can take away. However confusing and difficult times are right now, we have an opportunity to assess the way we work that we may never encounter under normal conditions. In business we tend to know our strengths and our weaknesses and we generally rely on the one while avoiding the other.
What Jack realised was that this is a great time to work on narrowing that gap – instead of swerving the things we’re not good at for the rest of our days, we should try to improve on them, bringing them more in line with what we do well – to work as it were, on our full game.

Lessons for business

To be realistic, not many of us are much like a professional rugby player. How many of us could really run around for 80 minutes while large men collide with us at high speed? Not many.
But still, there are similarities and there are definitely lessons. Jack draws the parallel that he loves what he does for a living, and so do we (even when we complain about it). We’re passionate about what we do, determined, persistent, with the vision and ability to turn what we see in our mind’s eye into a successful manoeuvre out on the field.
But we also share the need to slow down sometimes. We need to reflect on how we work and ask whether new ways of working might serve us better. It’s unlikely we’ll look back on this period with fondness; but we may well look back on it as a period in which we learned lessons about ourselves with practical applications for the future.


If you’d like to know more about Jack and his impressive stats, you can find out more here. Next time we’ll be hearing from international hockey star and Metis Brand Ambassador, Róisín Upton.


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All content provided in these blog posts is intended for information purposes only and should not be interpreted as financial advice. You should always engage the services of a fully qualified financial adviser before entering any financial contract. Metis Ireland Financial Planning Ltd t/a Metis Ireland will not be held responsible for any actions taken as a result of reading these blog posts.