Learning Something New

July 28, 20082 min

Last weekend I started practicing with the San Diego Armada – a beginner’s rugby league in San Diego. When I went to the Agile Coach Camp in Michigan, William Pietri suggested that to be an effective coach, one needs to learn how to do something new from time-to-time. It is important to remember what it feels like to be a beginner and do the stupid things that novices do because they do not know any better. This helps you understand the struggle novices are undergoing when they learn the new Agile practices and methods, be more humble when working with people and be patient with their rate of change.

So here is what I learned this weekend going out for rugby for the first time:

  1. Catching a rugby ball is not that hard. When I showed up for the drills people were in circles throwing the ball and I was really nervous that I would have to catch the ball. DUH! It’s rugby, you need to catch the ball. Catching a rugby ball was not that hard once someone showed me how to do it.
  2. You need to be running before you call out “Ball!” Since there are no forward passes in rugby, you have to be moving on your teammate before shouting for a pass. If you are just standing still, i.e. flat on your feet, you will not get a pass and if you do, you’ll get tackled and the play is over.
  3. Pick your head up when running with the ball. You cannot find the holes in the defense if your head is down. Also, don’t be afraid of the tackle – you’re not made out of glass.
  4. Listen to what the experienced players are telling you. They already know how to play the game and if they say you’re offsides, you’re offsides. OTOH, if you ask them a question, they will explain a law or game strategy to you. Since this is a beginner’s league, they are tolerant of errors, but learning how to play the game is your responsibility.
  5. Rugby is hard. I thought I was physically fit, but when you run around and play rugby for two hours (yes, that is how long practice was), it takes more energy than you think. Working out and getting fit in the gym is no substitute for playing on a team.
  6. I am not the best, but I am not the worst. Since I did not really understand how to play the game, there was not a lot in my performance that was worthy of praise – I was always out of position, offsides frequently, my passes were sloppy, etc., etc. – but a few of my teammates still found the opportunity to praise some aspects of my play when I did something right.