Stuart Lancaster is the Senior Coach with Leinster Rugby. Prior to this he was England RFU’s Head of Elite Player Development before being appointed England Head Coach where he served for four years. He is a respected leader in the fields of coaching, leadership and player development. Here he shares with you what he feels is the value of journaling and writing things down.

This essay is an extract from Be the Best You Can Be in Sport- A Book for Irish Youth

I will begin with a story to bring to life the point I wish to make. My family live in Leeds, and I work in Dublin coaching Leinster Rugby. For the last four years I’ve commuted backwards and forwards, driving my car from training, leaving it at the airport, flying to Leeds, getting a taxi home and then returning the following day. Many times I have arrived back into Dublin airport and found myself thinking…where did I park my car?!

What I do now to avoid this is when I have parked my car, I walk into the departures area at the airport and write down the bay where I have parked. This ensures I recall it twice in my mind, as well as writing it down. Now, every time I arrive back in Dublin, sometimes after a day or two off, I always remember.

The process of memory recall is critical in life, but also in sport.

There are many times I am delivering meetings at Leinster packed full with information. Some of it is logistical: where we need to be, why we need to be there, here is the plan for the future etc. Some of it is technical: here is the game plan, here is the review, here are the attacking sequences we want to use etc.

It amazed me how many players used to turn up to these meetings without a journal or a notebook. If you don’t write anything down, you have nothing to refer back to, nothing to recall. I guarantee you players who make notes, write things down, constantly look ahead, reflect on experiences, ask themselves appropriate questions and intentionally plan their future development, make much more of their potential than players that don’t. They are simply clearer in their thoughts and more focused on what’s important.

Journaling is key to success. It can take many forms and cover a wide variety of content: information, thoughts, reflections, learnings, planning and so on. I simply can’t stress strongly enough its value as a learning and personal development practice.

Somebody once described that successful leaders have the ability to lead with a telescope and a microscope. So they have the ability to see and plan into the future, yet they have the ability to see the detail also, just like a great player should. There is simply no way I could lead and coach in a club like Leinster without my journal, and the many notes that I make.

The notes are the one thing that I constantly refer back to, and the journal is where I am constantly planning ahead. By having these notes, I have something to recall and it becomes hard wired in my mind so I don’t forget really important information, just like where I have parked my car!

Best wishes,

Stuart Lancaster

Copyright Paul Kilgannon 2021
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