You may remember that a few weeks back we had a few of the lovely gents from the Harlequins Rugby team come to visit us in the workshop for a bit of simulator work and pit stop practice. Well earlier this week it was our turn to join them to see exactly what they get up to as they prepare for and come off the back of big matches. A rare insight. So off we went with Jordan King, Jake Dennis, ex-Carlin driver Sam Bird and Tom Gaymor.
First off was the challenge of getting there, a few of us (not naming names) ended up in the hospital car park thanks to that wondrous invention that manages to take you somewhere you didn’t want to go – the Sat Nav. After a swift hit of the ‘off’ button we eventually found the Surrey Sports Park. This is where the Harlequins Rugby team spend most of their time.
To start the day we sat down with the players for a spot of breakfast. And as you would expect this wasn’t exactly your normal breakfast – these athletes need protein, and lots of it! So for them it was chicken wrapped in bacon, eggs and beans.
Next up we had a bit of a nose around their base with the help of Tom Williams [Wing] and Mark Soden (Mark is the Performance a Development Coach within the team); the facility itself is fantastic, everything a sports enthusiast could ever want. A huge gym, squash courts, rock climbing walls and even a Starbucks! But tucked away within the grounds is Harlequins HQ, a purpose built facility with meeting rooms, changing rooms and chill out areas. It has everything the team needs to get them ready ahead of any match.
Coming from a sport where there are a thousand variables that we are able to measure on the car it was a real insight to see the data that the boffins there are able to collate from the players – from running speed to heart rate to the amount of time they spend down on the ground – the amount they can take away from each match or training session is immense. They can even watch every single second of the match where they played a part giving them the ability to deeply analyse tackles and line outs in great detail as and when they want.
Then it was time for our guys to get stuck in, complete with some new Harlequins team kit. The squash court was to be the initial challenge, hand-eye co-ordination with juggling balls and trampolines. Sound simple? It isn’t. This entire session was based around peripheral vision and how important that aspect is when you’re on a rugby pitch and you constantly need to keep an eye out for so many different situations. Did you know, a lot of players now wear contact lenses – and they didn’t even realise that they needed them!
While we cooled off from that little excursion we sat in on a few meetings as the team prepped for the upcoming match on Friday night. Using their mantra of ‘Commitment, Respect, Excellence and Pride’ the team talked about their strategy (lot of animal names going on there) while also receiving a pretty rousing speech from Chris Robshaw (England Captain, don’t you know). Luke Wallace [Back Row] and George Robson [Lock] were also on hand throughout to lend advice and talk us through the entire process. While our post-race debriefs are different there were still similarities in certain elements – no matter what the sport, the emphasis is inevitably the same throughout.
A quick change into some studded shoes (but only for Jordan as he was of course trying out for Harlequins team today) and it was out on to the field for some ball control. Again, however, if your name was Jordan this was also an opportunity to try and impress with your tackling ability – albeit a little less collision-heavy than a normal match… after all, we don’t want any injuries!
It was a fantastic chance to see Jake and Jordan on the pitch in a completely different environment to what they are normally used to – and we think they did a brilliant job. You can definitely see that any sport is important and vital to athletes; and skills are certainly transferable even if the sport itself couldn’t be further apart.
Finally it was time to head off; time really does fly when you’re having fun. After a day of training and lots of fly on the wall activities we left feeling pretty pleased with how the day had progressed and how much we had taken away from it. Thanks Harlequins, see you in the summer! Next time… karting?!