Paul Gustard: How a visit to Gatwick improved our coaching team

Tuesday, 1st October 2019 @ 07:00

Paul Gustard offers his takeaways after the coaching team recently visited Gatwick Airport to improve their communications skills.

Just as we ask the players to reflect on their performance and see opportunities to improve, it is important that I personally analyse my own coaching and processes. One of the areas I was disappointed from last year was my match day communication clarity. So, to help develop and improve this I went to Gatwick Airport to see how the Air Traffic Control team managed their communications. Our brilliant welfare manager Andy Sanger, who is an integral member of our team, arranged the visit and helped facilitate a fantastic opportunity for us.

I took the entire coaching staff, Graeme Bowerbank, our team manager, Mike Lancaster and Elliott Clarke, our senior medics, to develop group understanding and learning so we can be clearer with our communication and be concise with our language. We were given an excellent presentation by Victor and Nikki who are two of the their key personnel and operators.

Following that, we undertook practical challenges to put some of the learnings to the test before a tour and observation of the actual tower in operation. This was a dream come true for Beagle (Alex Codling) whom confessed he liked an airbus or a 747 as much as he likes a 5-man lineout, and was particularly excited. We then went on the simulator where we were able to re-enact what we had just seen and once more see how we could work well together through the power of language. We finished the day off with lunch, which meant Adam Jones was as happy as Beagle.

Amongst the team behind the team, communication is crucial – particularly on match days where there is so much happening on and off the pitch – so we are grateful for the opportunity and hospitality extended to us as we continually assess and look to improve our performance.

The brevity and need to check for understanding is critical in the aviation industry and it is their clarity and common phraseology that allows them to operate so clearly and efficiently. We have already started by introducing some of our learnings for our opening fixture against Bristol and we will continue to review and reflect as we move through our Premiership Cup fixtures, including last weekend against London Irish.

The communications loop is a well-documented concept but the depth and detail that the ATC go into, allied to the time spent on ensuring the accuracy was incredible. We enjoyed our day, and look forward to welcoming them to our environment and allow them to observe and see what transferable skills they can imitate.

It is important as a team, and therefore as a staff, that we don’t stand still and see what else is out there that could aid our development and fast track our progress. I am delighted that we have staff at the club that are developing a strong growth mindset and look for possibilities outside our sphere to see what we learn and implement. I know I am not where I want to be, yet, but we are committed as a group to keep exploring so that we can create the optimal learning environment for the players and give them the best opportunities for success and enjoyment.

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