One Year Blog Challenge

Day 268: A World Of Heroes


1. a man distinguished by exceptional courage, nobility, fortitude, etc
2. a man who is idealized for possessing superior qualities in any field
3. classical myth a being of extraordinary strength and courage, often the offspring of a mortal and a god, who is celebrated for his exploits


I’ve been thinking about that word. I think it’s undervalued in our culture today. So often we hear people say ‘so and so was trying to be a hero’ or simply ‘don’t be a hero’ like it’s some sort of negative thing but to be blunt, I think that’s wrong.

I watched England play South Africa today – we lost by one point. On the field, the players put their bodies on the line in order to win. The English players were gracious in defeat; both players were exceptionally courageous and gave their all in a hard contest. Are they heroes? For me, unequivocally yes. There is something about the qualities you must possess in order to play rugby that I greatly admire. In reality, winning or losing means very little to everyday life, but I think they’re heroes.

What about the young people who serve in their youth group week in and week out? The ones who aren’t afraid to publicly declare their faith and to invite their friends to church. It takes huge amounts of courage and strength to risk being ostracized by your friends for the sake of your faith. Again, I believe these people are heroes.

There are so many more examples. From the single mum to the surgeon to the spaceman to the little orphan boy in Africa who provides for the rest of his family instead of going to school, we live in a world of heroes. I refuse to accept any sort of casual dismissal of the word.

YES for Heroes!

One Year Blog Challenge, Uncategorized

Day 30: Leadership Lessons From Lancaster

Yesterday Stuart Lancaster was officially announced as the next coach for the elite England rugby squad. I’ve written before about Lancaster so far in this one year blogging challenge (Day 11) and I’m sure I’ll write about him again. I find him intriguing as his leadership style (from an outsider’s point of view) differs so hugely to that of his mightily authoritative World Cup winning predecessor, Martin Johnson, but still seems to carry a quiet air of assurance about him. In his short time as interim coach, there are quite a few things that we can learn from the former PE teacher.

Image from Telegraph Sport (@TelegraphSport)

This diagram, reportedly used in his Lancaster’s post-Six Nations tournament shows all of the things that he feels will lead the team to victory in the time leading up to, and at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. I believe that many of these things can transfer to any team. I’d be very surprised if anyone has been a part of an unhappy team environment where the factors along the bottom row have been fulfilled. I find this incredibly challenging – am I always enthusiastic within a team? Am I always positive and overflowing with team spirit? I find this to be a great reminder that individuals within a team really do make a big difference. Take the second row; it’s no easy feat to manage the tension between self-belief and a balanced ego.

Even within a worship team context, this diagram can be transformational. Whilst there are factors that simply don’t apply in the same way, such as toughness and fitness, there are other factors that are absolutely vital. A rugby team has ‘set plays’ – strategies and moves that they will incorporate into their game at certain points to try and reach their goal…a win. However, if a rugby team sticks rigidly to a game plan that isn’t working and don’t show decisive decision making on the field, they will simply miss their opportunity and lose the game. Similarly, in our worship team, we almost always approach the allotted time of worship with ‘set songs’ that the worship leader has prepared with the aim of leading people into the presence of God. It’s not simply a case of picking ‘good songs’; much time is spent on trying to create a ‘worship journey’ – to help us turn our eyes towards the glory of God. But very rarely do we simply follow the ‘script’ from beginning to end. The Holy Spirit often leads the worship in a different direction and the worship team must be comfortable with quick decision making in order to serve the congregation well and glorify God appropriately. We also need to remember that we are part of a worship team…team spirit is of paramount importance! In a worship team, it isn’t about who sings what song or who gets to play the guitar solo. It’s about whether people either in the congregation or at home are supported in their time with God.

I could go on. There is so much we could learn about teamwork from really analysing the diagram above. However, there are a few things about Stuart Lancaster’s time at the helm of the England squad that I want to highlight for today. They are pointers for all of us…especially me.

  • Lancaster put the team first. Rather than striving for results to better his chances of earning the full time position, he looked to create the best starting platform for the journey to the 2015 Rugby World Cup that he could. He even got the results as well…bonus!
  • Lancaster put character before gifting. He has suspended multiple players from the squads for poor off the field behaviour. He has risked sacrificing the short term quality of the squad in order to create a team of balanced egos that understand the influence they have on the younger generations and importantly, the reputation of the sport itself.
  • Lancaster put faith in inexperienced players. He picked nine un-capped players for his elite player squad – incredibly brave for an interim coach. We can see from how the players stepped up to the mark that with a little responsibility, the more inexperienced team members can flourish. People with inexperience can grow hugely with a little responsibilty, providing there are enough experienced members to keep the team on course and the inexperienced members are willing to be taught. It shows faith and trust which I think is incredibly empowering.
  • Lancaster consistently spoke well of everyone. The way we talk about people is crucial. Lancaster honoured his leaders throughout the interview process, spoke well of opposing teams and coaches at all times and whilst firm, remained supportive to disgraced players constantly. Some of the most influential leaders I know are the ones who refuse to be drawn into gossip or speak negatively of people. It’s a quality I’ve yet to master, but in my experience, people are drawn to that sort of integrity in a leader and usually more naturally inclined to be led by them

Once again, I could go on. As you’re probably aware, I’m quite the supporter of our new England head coach. I really hope he continues in the same vein as he began. I’m sure Stuart Lancaster can teach us a whole lot more if he does!

One Year Blog Challenge, Uncategorized

Day 17: Rugby Training

I love rugby. I think it’s the sporting equivalent of going to war for a day…at least, that’s how seriously I take it!! The ultimate team game; every member of the team has specific roles and responsibilities and are utterly dependent on each other. Players put their bodies on the line in every tackle, every scrum and every opportunity in order get the win. There’s a sublime ferocity coupled with an inspiring sense of honesty and sportsmanship that I’ve never witnessed in other sports – it grips me!

I remember how much I learnt in the few years that I spent as a young teen playing at Bracknell R.F.C. I progressed from the lock, deep inside the scrum through the centres and eventually to the wing, gaining invaluable experience of what it means to carry responsibilities, support your team mates and give your all regardless of fatigue. I learnt the value of putting the collective team above yourself and how to push yourself to the limits. I used to watch friends of mine within the team show the kind of leadership that I was in awe of and the show the kind of discipline that I just couldn’t fathom. So many names come to mind but there was one guy in particular who inspired me the most.

He wasn’t the tallest guy around at the time (don’t forget we were only 13/14), but had spades of discipline. You could always depend on him to play well and would always be pushing himself way after everyone else gave up. He could tackle as hard as anyone else, he could kick and he was fast. All I had was speed when I was at the club and granted, I used to score tries but it was purely on the back of the efforts of guys like this…and he still scored more than me! I was simply the glory-boy, which I always felt guilty about. But the lessons I learnt from him, along with the rest of the team, have stuck with me all the way through to now, a decade later. I think that’s why I’m so passionate about watching England play rugby; it serves as a reminder of the crucial time at Bracknell that massively shaped me into the person that I am today. I want to put everything on the line to get the ‘win’ in whatever area I’m in. If international rugby players can do it physically, week in and week out, surely I can do it mentally!