Kirk Vallis learning points from the Kids First conference

At the end of April, I joined around 240 English based grassroots coaches at the Quilter Kids First conference. There was lots to learn and also to celebrate as the game for youngsters moves forward.

In partnership with Quilter (formerly known as Old Mutual Wealth) @QKidsFirst, the RFU has been working hard to push Kids First as a concept to coaches of the ages 6-13. Central to this has been initiatives such as the New Rules of Play and the acronym CARDS. That stands for Creativity, Awareness, Resilience, Decision-making and Self-organising.

They held their second annual conference at Twickenham, with over 240 coaches enjoying a busy day of interactive lectures, activities and games on the hallowed turf. It was, in part, a reward for the coaches’ clubs buying into the concept and in part a chance to upskill this enthusiastic bunch.

I was keen to take away as many learning points as I could. Here are the key ones from Kirk Vallis, Global Head of creative Capability Development, Google, who was a keynote presenter.

1. You don’t have to be serious at work
a. If you are serious in meetings, you reduce the chances for the brain to relax and make more creative solutions.
b. Think about the places you have your best ideas. Most of us say places like “outrunning”, “in the shower”, or even “the pub”. It’s rarely at your desk.

2. It’s good to be nervous
a. This creates the energy to achieve. It’s good to be in a safe environment but with uncertainty.
b. Push yourself to get uncomfortable. It acts as a stimulus. And then be excited by what it can create.

3. Avoid knowledge for the sake of knowledge
a. Learn what to do and why.

4. Legally, how can you influence the referee before the game

5. Create the environment where people want to be
a. Some coaches put phone chargers in meeting rooms so the players will want to come in to chat.

6. Move away from your “rivers of thinking”
a. We have a set way to approach problems and decisions, based on our past experiences. This is mostly good but doesn’t always mean we can think creatively.
b. We should move into another “river” to approach the problem from another angle.

7. Break rules to think creatively
a. Problems can’t be solved if you come at them from where the problem came from in the first place. What can you adjust about the original environment?
b. Pick a rule and see what happens when you break it. These rules are explicit and tacit. Explicit in the sense they are written down, tacit in the sense that they are “what we always do”.

8. Funnel creative thoughts into real decisions
a. Be creative and expansive. And then reduce those into decisions that can be actioned. That’s where the real treasure lies. You need both.

9. Reframe your thinking
a. Coaches and players can get stuck in thinking about execution to solve a problem rather than the function. Small adjustments to the technique may only exacerbate another problem. Can you go back to the reason for the skill and try to find another way?
b. Therefore, don’t allows think that form comes before function. Think about why you are doing something, the context of it. That context is based on the situation, like a pass in a 2 v 1 in wide space as opposed to a pass in a tight area. If the pass doesn’t work, we should avoid spending too much time on the “form”.

Slides were taken from Byron John’s presentation on Innovation

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