Gordon Tredgold’s Rugby Experience Lead to Leadership Success-Part I


Gordon Tredgold (Del Ray Beach, FL, USA) has many great experiences and successes, including being an author, speaker, consultant, coach and leadership expert, but before all of this, he played rugby (league and union).

His rugby playing life spanned over 30 years, beginning at age nine. Now he has over 20 years of corporate experience in leading large transformational change programs both internationally and globally. Amongst his many recognitions, he is one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 101 Great Leadership Speakers.

Gordon Tredgold’s Rugby Experience Lead to Leadership Success-Part I

FAST Leadership Principles were developed by Tredgold (bit.ly/1EWRKqU), of which the factors of Focus, Accountability, Simplicity, and Transparency are equal to success. He says that, “If we improve our performance in each of these areas, we will significantly improve our results.”

Rugby success can be attributed to FAST leadership principles and Tredgold provided real-life examples from his rugby-playing days. The teams he played for include Quarry Mount, Lawnswood High School, Manchester University, and Leicester Cobblers (now known as Leicester Storm).

Tredgold comes from a rugby-playing family or as he says, a “soccer-skills limiting family.” He grew up in Leeds, but his family on his fathers side all came from Castleford, where they didn’t even have a soccer team, but they have rugby league, which is what he played for the first three years of his rugby life.

Rugby union was the sport at his grammar school, which was a big shock for Tredgold and his friends, coming from rugby league. Rugby league he found to be a lot more physical than rugby union and a lot more high impact. To get an idea of his physical stature, he is only 5’6”. It was a little difficult of a transition for him as a hooker, where he went from being an acting half-back, going from 20-30 tackles a game and being involved at the play of the ball, to what seemed endless rucking, scrumaging, and mauling.

Rugby union and league were both loved by Tredgold. He played union for a couple of years, until about age 16, when he started playing league again.

There was no Union team at his school for that age group; you went straight from the under 15s, to competing for places in the school 1st XV which was an under 18s team.

This was the best time for Tredgold and his rugby, when he played league for the school under-16s, union for the under 18s, as well as playing open age rugby on Saturdays and for his club colts teams on Sundays. This meant he was often playing four to five games per week including two on Saturday.

Now that’s a love of rugby!

When it was time to go to university, he went to Manchester and played rugby union for the 1st XV. After a year into his studies, he joined the university rugby league team. There were four rugby union teams, but just one rugby league team. Tredgold had missed playing league and wanted to get back into it.

In the second season Tredgold’s rugby league team played in the top division and lost every single game. It was clear that was going to happen before the season started, and they were worried they would lose players, and that the club might fold due to insufficent players. In order to avoid this, they redefined winning as the team that enjoyed themselves and each other the most. At the end of the season they had 10 more players sign up, as a result of the team spirit and kept the club not only alive but healthier inspite of losing every game.

Despite their spirit and good fun, they continued to lose games. One example of their loss is when the score was 94-5, at a time when it was three points for a try. Tredgold said that if you were to look at the teams after the game, you’d think it was his team that had won, based on their having fun and positive attitude. They realised in advance that they were not going to win, so were just playing for the fun and love of the game.

As team captain of the university team, Tredgold had an interesting leadership experience. The following season, and Tredgold’s last year at university, the top two divisions were merged into one conference. It was impossible to play everyone in the conference, so league positions were based on the percentage of games won. Tredgold saw this as an opportunity to significantly improve their league position, so he cancelled all fixtures against the best teams. This was not against the rules as teams had to play 20 games against any teams, rather than all the teams. Result ? They ended up finishing third that season.

The majority of players had played in the team that had lost every game the year before, so how did this happen? Once the players got into the habit of winning, even though they were playing teams that were “rubbish,” said Tredgold, and worse than his team, the outlook of the team started to change and then they started beating some of the teams they had lost to previously. Once winning was the habit, it remained the habit even against better teams.

Rugby league continued to be a part of Tredgold’s life, as he played after university. In 1986 he started the first rugby league team in Leicester, a hotbed of rugby union. The team was called the Leicester Cobblers (now Storm) and he coached the team, which went on to win the league title in their second year finishing undefeated. At age 29, he took a sabbatical from playing rugby to focus on his business career.

At 32 years old, Tredgold started playing again, this team playing union, but only playing once every three or four weeks. In one game against Broughton Park Veterans, Tredgold came up against players who had played at the top level earlier in their careers, and after a very physically punishing game, Tredgold realised he had to either play every week or stop, otherwise he risked serious injury. Rubgy is not something to be entered into half heartedly, because that’s when you get hurt. So he decided to stop.

Tredgold suffered very few injuries and only missed a handful of games, but most unfortunate for Tredgold was when he was selected to play for Great Britain University against New Zealand, but broke his finger just prior to the game. This is his only regret from his long career.

Unable to keep away, Tredgold came back to play union at the age of 38 and played on until he was 43.

Although he never made the grade at the highest level he did get to play against many who did in his junior career. Playing against many great rugby legends, such as Nigel Melville (former British Lions player and England Captain), Brian Moore (former England Rugby player) from ages 13-18, and Ellery Hanley (former rugby league player and legend). According to Tredgold, he never played on a losing team against Hanley, who was the best player he ever came up against in either code.

Tredgold claimed that rugby is his number one passion. He would have loved to have been a professional rugby player if he were good enough. Tredgold loves the training, loves playing and it’s his absolute passion. He
claims many of his leadership philosophies were formed, tried and tested on the rugby field.

To be continued in Part II, with FAST leadership examples from rugby.


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