Meeting up with… Nick Wilkinson

Nick Wilkinson, is the Rugby Development Officer (RDO) at Sevenoaks Rugby Club, where he coaches Rugby to the majority of the local schools in and around the Sevenoaks area.

Until recently, he also ran both the Mighty Oaks Business Club and Membership for the Rugby Club too. Others may know him from his Business, Agora CCX, a Technology consultancy helping clients find the best solution for their business needs. Sevenoaks Sports magazine sat down with Nick to understand where he gets his drive and ambition from. Nick was talking to Steve Rowley, our Publishing Editor.

What is your first memory of participating in sport?
Growing up, all of my family were strong swimmers. We belonged to the local swimming club and I recall many Saturday evening swimming gala’s, followed by a Fish and Chip supper at home in front of the TV watching “Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game”.

Being a strong swimmer in all strokes meant I was always competing in the “Individual Medley” (Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Front Crawl). I went on to represent my school, however never represented the county or higher.

There just didn’t seem to be the same pathway or access to higher levels in sports back in the 1970’s and 80’s that there is today.

Beyond swimming and as a Boy Scout and Army Cadet, I became accomplished and qualified in many other sports. These included Rugby, Canoeing, Snowboarding, Dingy Sailing and Martial Arts. In fact, after a 20-year hiatus, I have begun teaching Martial Arts again, in a local Sevenoaks school.

Who’s your hero and why?
My business hero is Richard Branson. I have read his autobiography – well, listened to the audiobook, narrated by the man himself. His story is fascinating. and his approach to business is amazing.

He once Tweeted “Train your people (staff) well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t”. It would be amazing to have the opportunity to work with him, he would be my ideal business mentor.

My sporting Hero is Jonny Wilkinson, and not because he is my namesake. His approach to life and sport is one I hope many others choose to follow. I would encourage as many people as possible to also read his autobiography.

He is said to live his life as if he were constantly being watch on CCTV. This may seem odd to others but to him it means he is constantly aware of what he should and should not be doing. He has morals and work ethics I aspire to.

Training wise, he relentlessly pursues perfection. I gather in preparation for the 2003 Rugby World Cup final in Sydney, Jonny Wilkinson kicked so much in practice, he had to go out and get new boots to fit his feet.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
In business, I have won large contracts for the companies I have worked for, which is always great.

The highlight of my coaching career however, has been receiving notes and cards from school pupils I have trained.

One that stood out was a letter from a pupil who, just before moving away from the area, took the time to write to me and express how much they had enjoyed my coaching sessions and how much they would miss them. They did not need to do that and I am humbled that they did.

What’s the best part of your job?
By far, the best part of what I do is see the smiles on players faces when they are having fun. My coaching philosophy is to give everyone, regardless of age, physique, gender or ability, access to the best possible coaching in a safe and fun environment so that they themselves can make an informed decision as to whether rugby is the sport for them.

Someone who aspires to be a world class sprinter may only reach 8th best in the world. That same individual could have been a world class winger, if only they had had access to the sport when they were younger.

This of course works both ways. An excellent rugby player could always choose another sport, when the time came to specialise.

…and the worst?
As with the example above, someone who shows the potential of being an outstanding rugby player, may decide that rugby is not for them, as their passion lies with another sport.

Recently, I have had to come to terms with the fact that a player, who is an excellent leader and exemplary sports captain, has decided to no longer play rugby, in favour of another sport.

It is hard to see someone go but they are always welcome back.

Do you have a lifetime ambition?
As a rugby coach, I would like one day to see a player I have coached become a world class international sportsperson in their chosen sport. If that is rugby then great, if it is another sport, that would be great too.

A certain international rugby player was recently asked which of all his rugby coaches he felt was the biggest influence on his performance.

Surprisingly, rather than name his international team coach, or the coach of his premiership team, the player named his school teacher from way back when.

Do you have any bad habits?
If you asked my friends or my wife this question, they would say my time keeping. I say I am always on time.

…or any good ones?
The constant pursuit of knowledge and improvement is an aspiration of mine. I would sooner be viewed by others this way. I have a very long way to go.

What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
Recently, the best advice I was given was to “Shut up!”.

Whilst coaching my very first session of Kent County Rugby on behalf of Saracens, now known as the Kent Developing Player Program (DPP), we were fortunate to have an RFU coach from the England U18’s Rugby team present.

There was me, eager to impress, offering pearls of wisdom to the players in my charge, when word reached me to “Shut up and just let them play!”.
The England U18’s Coach had been observing me and had shared those exact words.

As hard as it was, I followed the instruction and I have to say the results were amazing. I am now a genuine convert and strongly believe in a new coaching style and approach, empowering players to grow, develop and learn through self-organisation and problem solving. Asking the right questions and presenting problems for players to solve, brings amazing results. It’s no longer just about winning.

Eddies Jones, England Rugby Head Coach, in a recent interview said of coaching young players “Winning must come second to skills.”
Since being told to “Shut up!”, my focus has become all about individual development and coaching fundamental skills. Let them play.

What’s next for you?
In business, I am branching out and beginning to deliver Emergency First Responder Training to Schools, Sports Clubs and Local Businesses.

Teaching as many people to be able to perform CPR and use an AED (defibrillator) to save a life in that initial “Golden Hour” of an emergency is my goal. Lifesaving stuff.

Coaching wise, I hope to increase my knowledge, experience and skills. Becoming a level 3 coach is an obvious progression, as a qualification.

Improving my skills by working with disadvantaged children at home or abroad is another box I would like to tick. Life Changing Stuff.

Lastly and no doubt to the delight of many who know me, I plan to “Shut up!” more often.

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