Army vs Navy Rugby

On the 5th May 2018 the British Army and Royal Navy will compete in the 101st Army vs Navy rugby match at Twickenham. The match was first played on the 13th February 1878 and then has been played annually since 1909. This article will explore the idea of sport in the military, the role of leadership and team building in sport and how sport can be used in the civilian workplace.

But first, some facts (and rumours) about the Babcock Series.

Facts (& rumours)

  • In the history of the match the Army have won 61 times with the Navy winning 35 (and 4 draws in between). (Fact)
  • The Army vs Navy Rugby match draws the largest audience of any non-professional sports fixtures in Europe. (Rumour)
  • The 99th series in 2016 drew the biggest crowd of the series with a full stadium of 81,323 spectators. (Fact)
  • Twickenham sells more beer during the Army vs Navy game than they do throughout the rest of the year! (Rumour)
  • Since 1909 the match has been played every single year with the exception of the two World Wars (1914-19 and 1940-45). (Fact)
  • The largest victory was in 2009 when the British Army beat the Royal Navy  50-7. (Fact)

Sport in the British Army

According to the National Army Museum “The British Army has been responsible for establishing many of the sports we know and love today. It has also helped spread activities like football, polo and hockey throughout the world.” For example, a note was scribbled onto the back of the sketch below that said ‘Copied from Sketch done at the time by me. The 59th Regt. played 15 officers against 15 officers of the Candahar Garrison & beat them. I suppose that this was the first game of football ever played in Afghanistan’.

Football being played in Afghanistan for the first time.

Football being played in Afghanistan for the first time.

This is just one of many examples, but why has sport always been so prevalent in the British Army?

A Joint Services Publication (JSP 660) identifies sport as contributing to:

  • Fitness
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Self-discipline & courage
  • Determination
  • Co-ordination
  • Competitive-spirit
  • Individual & collective resilience

Clearly all of the above go someway to increase our soldier’s operational effectiveness but it’s easy to see that these are all traits you might want from your team members or employees.

The Benefits of Sport for all (even civilian) Employees

To a CEO the idea of facilitating your employees to play sport to any degree might not seem cost effective. However when the previous points are each considered on their own merit the advantages are obvious.

Fitness

Having a fit employee is tantamount to having a healthy employee. Countless studies have shown that employees who exercise regularly are more focused when at work and are off sick less!

Teamwork

Clearly the benefits here are obvious. When your employees play a team sport it makes them feel like a team and can even harbour a social relationship. This can help the team to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses as well as encourage your employees to strive for team goals.

Leadership

Leadership in sport is one of the most studied areas in which leadership is practiced. Rather than trying to summarise leadership in sport I would recommend to anyone in business or interested in leadership to read Legacy.

Self Discipline & Courage

Self discipline is what, when things get difficult, will keep your team doing the right thing. It’s what will stop your employees from cutting corners and self-motivate to work towards the common team goal. Courage is what gives your employees their confidence and, in the face of difficult decisions, it is moral courage that will ensure an employee acts in line with the team values. Read more about self discipline and courage in 2017’s Army Leadership Code.

Individual & Collective Resilience

Teams win together and teams lose together. When a team loses together, whether on a project or on a sports field, what’s important is how they react. Sport allows a team to understand different coping mechanisms with failure. These, then practiced in the workplace can lead to a team that is able to bounce back from set backs and continue to work to the end goal.

Can it Work for you?

When looking at companies like Google and Apple who encourage their staff to play sport in work time you might be thinking “I can’t afford to let my employees do that!”. But you’d be wrong. Not only can sport be free to play, it doesn’t even need to be played during work hours – the truth is that you can’t afford not to try if you’re serious about leading a team and not just managing a company.

Have Your Say

Is this a model that is really scalable for small to medium sized businesses or just an idealistic views that disregards the realities of running a company? Let me know in Your Thoughts or comment below and as always i’ll reply and may even elaborate on your thought in a future post.

-The Military CEO