Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Home - Day 2

I was still feeling wretched after giving a speech to the State Boarding School Association, so it was back to a bed. Almost immediately, emails began buzzing in from these highly committed head teachers and boarding heads about how they can move boarding from being liked to being loved. They also wanted to know how they can make their schools irresistible. We’re talking about the kind of people I like best - committed, inspirational and trying to make a difference.

Thankfully the body has a bad memory (which I guess explains how mothers manage to have more than one child) and in the morning a whole new day dawned. After a quick workout on the elliptical trainer it was back to school for a session with teachers and pupils on how to incorporate Personal Purpose into a new Life Skill’s Program. This is a great initiative from Lancaster Royal Grammar School, with students and teachers working on content and delivery. At last there is a program that actually equips 6th formers to think for themselves and about themselves, in an open conceptual way, instead of just plodding on with no dream and without a purpose.

The kids were articulate, inspirational, confrontational and fun.

From there I caught up with Bob Skinstad, the ex-Springboks Skipper and a great mate, who had kindly flown up to deliver some coaching to the School’s first 15. He reported that while the team was smaller and less physically conditioned than their South African counterparts, they were much smarter in rugby terms.

After Bob left for a commitment in Leeds, we drove back up to Grasmere where the rain was still pouring down in what locals call typical Lakes weather. We’d just arrived when Magnus Lund turned up, so granddaughter Stella had the honor of meeting two international backrow forwards within an hour. Magnus is a 24-year old who has been playing professional rugby with Sale for seven years and is tired of the routine. He’s a leader in a new generation of lads who have not gone to college or had any other job apart from playing professional rugby. Training five days a week and playing the other two doesn’t do much for the body or soul and Magnus is considering blazing a trail by taking six months off. His idea is to come over to the U.S. to take a mental break, do some coaching, perhaps work with the Eagles and then go back into full-time rugby in 2008. This revolutionary approach is being met with shock and horror by Sale and English Rugby authorities, but I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg and the start of a major trend. Rugby players tend to come from good schools, with a good educational and strong family backgrounds. With this at your back, the single-minded focus of such a physical sport as rugby can grow tiresome. The sort of break Magnus is considering is going to be needed by more and more players as time goes on. I hope that Magnus follows through. Not only for him of course, as USA Rugby would benefit from his expertise, but as a precedent for others.

My evening ended with Stella giving a star performance (excuse the pun) at The Drunken Duck which, as you know, is one of my favorite watering holes in the Lake District. She enjoyed her outing there and was wide awake for the entire evening. Luckily we found a small room with four tables, three of which were inhabited with a combination of expectant first-time moms and experienced grandparents. Pat from North Wales had just finished her dinner and took Stella walkabout while we ate our meal. Handling a newborn obviously is like riding a bike, the benefits of experience are priceless. Once learnt it's never forgotten.