14 May 2015


Rob Vickerman is a former rugby union player who played at centre for  Yorkshire Carnegie in the Premiership. He also played for Newcastle Falcons and captained England to the Sevens World Cup final in Russia, in 2013.


Rob recently announced he is retiring from rugby on medical grounds due to a neck injury. Already with a thriving business as a mentor and coach, he will continue to work with Yorkshire Carnegie in a business role.


Rob wrote the below article with an understanding of what all people go through in their work; be it sport, office work or directorships – there needs to be a bigger purpose. Whilst there is directed content to experienced rugby readers, the messages remain the same….


I would like to start trying to relate to all readers of this paper, and surrounding much of the reflection I have done in the last 2 weeks: about the reasons why I always wanted to play rugby. These haven’t really changed through professionalism, but have become harder to keep at the forefront of my mind when the doubts of injury, selection, form or even a lack of motivation kicked in. Breaking it down to the basics, and it is often stated rugby is a simple game; I believe my reasons ‘Why’ I do what I do (…did!);  is that I wanted to create and share memories with those around me that I trained with, learned from, grew alongside and admired, it was always deeper than just “win everything”.


Winning is a ‘NEED’ in sport, seen with a result contested in every game and a seasonal trophy played for. Jobs are lost and lives are significantly changed without wins. It is the environment that is the ‘WANT’. If a team can hone in on playing for each other – and encompass this with a greater purpose; and combine that with technical and tactical excellence, honed by repetition and understanding, then the results, and more importantly – the environment, will be startling.



Take for example two significant performances, and tournament wins as an England Sevens Team in both New Zealand (Feb, 2009) and Twickenham (May 2009). To justify the last paragraph – the statistics surrounding the performances haven’t stuck, I could not tell you how many tackles were made, or how many try scoring passes were created or fumbled. What I can tell you, is that when we won the tournaments – and frankly did so often playing poorly, we won owing to a unequivocal desire to play for each other and create those memories. Both times we had a build up solely focused on ‘us’ as 19 people on tour, both times we went 3 scores down in the final, and both times we came back to win in extra time. Winning undoubtedly helps bind the memories into a different part of the brain, but that wasn’t in my mind aged 6 running around the pitch. I did it for the enjoyment, the freedom, and the experiences, and the 2008/9 season with England Sevens provided exactly those.


Throughout this pursuit for enjoyment and memories in fifteens rugby I got to play with and against some of the players I truly admired in the game. The players that I watched, opened mouthed, now stood against me and alongside me. I will never forget Jonah Lomu bearing down on me having just seen no-one to my outside as I had the ball with him approaching. The slow motion Sky cameras depicted perfectly justified fear. To have had these memories nearly taken away from me from not just one ACL rupture, but two (the second 20 minutes into my comeback game), most definitely made me keep a wholly humbled perspective throughout the rest of my career, and no doubt has helped me adjust to my recent retirement. How lucky have I been?!



Sevens, however, was the environment I thrived in, and made the most memories. The world travel and often marquee locations make the tour seem somewhat of a glamour circuit, but it would be truer to describe it as a ‘travelling circus.’ I have enough replicated hotel keys to form an impressive collage, but it must be said that these would be locations I wouldn’t be able to visit in a normal capacity, yet alone with so many great friends and with the amount of down time we had. I just wish more of it was without the jet lag!


From here on in I have to now prove the fact I used to claim I never feared the thought of not playing. I am taking my vast and very practical life experiences gained in sport, through learning theory and experiencing a corporate environment over the last 18 months to now champion lessons in leadership, motivation, engagement and elite behaviours as a consultant. I will continue to seek creating memories and enjoyment – but know that I will likely never find myself in such a purposeful, constantly challenging, and fun environment as I knew as a rugby player.


by Rob Vickerman

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