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'That's Going to Hurt in the Morning': What I Learned about Web Development on the Rugby Pitch

By Dennis Rios on December 16, 2015

I recently took up a new sport. Rugby! As you may or may not know the scrum process that our Dev team has been using to transform ILAO's technology was named after the sport of rugby. A scrum (short for scrummage) is a method of restarting play in rugby that involves players packing closely together with their heads down and attempting to gain possession of the ball. Which is basically what we here at ILAO try to do with each Sprint. Put our heads together and try to tackle our website rebuild one sprint (work period) at a time.

I got into rugby almost at the same time I got into the scrum process. And much like the scrum process I was sort of thrown into the sport without much knowledge of the game. When I first signed up to play I thought we were playing soccer! Not rugby. A fellow attorney invited me to join the Chicago Lawyer´s Rugby Football Club (CLRFC). I was looking for an excuse to spend more time in the sun during the summer. Chicago winters are harsh, so come summer, you want to get as much vitamin D as possible before you have to go back and hibernate. At first I said no. Running around a field with 15 players trying to take your head off did not sound like a whole lot of fun. But I agreed to come to practice just to get out and get some exercise. And slowly but surely I got sucked into the sport. Not only is it a great sport, but there's a whole culture of respect and sportsmanship I´ve never witnessed in other sports.

People unfamiliar with the sport may think that it's just about running around in the mud and hitting other players (wearing no protection). But it's so much more than that. The most interesting stuff happens after the game. Rugby is known as the gentlemen’s game. There's something about the game that brings out the gentleman in players. Sure, during the game everyone has their game face on and you do everything you can to help your team score. But unlike our much beloved American football, rugby discourages and even frowns upon boasting, trash talking, harming players and generally any ungentlemanly conduct. And once a game is over, both teams shake hands and head over to the nearest pub for beers. The home team always pays for beers whether they win or lose. It's all about respect and playing the game.

Over the summer we got an invitation to participate in the Lawyer´s Rugby World Cup in London representing the U.S. Though the team had only been around for about a year, against our better judgment we said “sure, why not!”. We put together a 25-man squad and joined the tournament along with 7 other countries including Ireland, Scotland, England, Italy, France and Cayman Islands. It was a heck of a tournament with many new friendships, stories and fun shenanigans.

Rugby and the scrum process share several similarities. Here are some examples:

Teamwork: Rugby is all about teamwork. It doesn’t matter if you’re the fastest, the strongest or have the prettiest uniform. The team with the best communication, coordination and creativity always wins. The same thing happens with the Scrum Process, it doesn’t matter how many superstars you have on the team, if you don’t have good communication, regular meetings and respect for your team members and their opinions, you’ll never achieve your goals.

Adaptability/Flexibility: In rugby you have to think on your feet. The game, much like soccer consists of two 40-minute halves. Which means that the clock never stops! Not only that, but rugby players play both offense and defense. This means that whenever you’re not attacking, you’re defending or backing up your teammates. The team is your family and you never abandon your family. In scrum we all take on individual stories or tasks, but you should always be available to support the rest of the team.

Communication: Our rugby coach always says that if you’re not constantly yelling in a game, you’re doing something wrong. The clock never stops in rugby so you have to communicate constantly and in a timely manner. Whether you’re calling for the ball, warning the defense that there’s a gap in the line or that someone on the opposing team is uncovered. You have to yell! Ok, so maybe we don’t yell in the office (not all the time). But it's important to speak up. Each player/member brings a unique perspective to the team. We are all very different with very diverse backgrounds and skill sets. Sometimes one team member is able to spot a gap, a solution, or a different more efficient approach that nobody else is able to see. You have to speak up, and the team has to listen and consider new ideas and approaches.

Be a Gentleman: It's not whether you win or lose. Its how you play the game! It’s important to respect your team members, their work, their effort, their time and ideas. The more the team respects and understands each other, the more efficient the team will be.

Rugby like the scrum process takes practice, dedication, communication, flexibility and teamwork. It's important to keep the goal in mind as you move forward.

And remember, enjoy the game!