The Kickoff

I recently attended a rugby match at Telstra stadium . I was late arriving but I noticed a man sitting in the front row. Amazingly, there’s an empty seat beside him. I went up to him and asked  “Do you mind if I sit here?”

“No, not at all,” he said. “It’s my wife’s seat, but she died recently..”

I as embarrassed and replied “I am so sorry to hear that.

Why didn’t you get one of your family to come?

“They are all at the funeral.”

Ladies and gentlemen – there are many people who love rugby union more than anything in the world. It rules their lives and way of thinking. I am not one of those people.

I had a very short encounter with rugby in my primary school days at an all boys school where sport was compulsory. I played hard to stay away from the action on the playing field.

My repressed memories of rugby returned when I received an email inviting me to a company kickoff. Our CEO is mad about rugby but why was he inviting me to some new form of Rugby Team building?

I read his message in more detail and realised that it was company meeting starting the new financial year as if it was a sporting match. Unlike professional rugby players, our team players were not getting lucrative salary packages.

I checked the email again for more details – the subject line said HO (H-O) kickoff. Should be put on our best British accents, pretend to be fox hunting and cry out Tally ho? Or should we be Gung Ho?

Then I realised – HO was written in capitals letters and stands for Head Office.

Let me tell you how I survived my all day game of corporate rugby .

I arrived early at the kickoff venue – a city hotel. As I approached the conference area, I smelt – coffee! A silver samovar on a stand – underneath – a gently flickering flame calling me like a moth attracted to a bright light.

I pick up a cup, place under the tap and pour. I took a sip … Yuk! I think it was last night’s leftovers. I see a Twinings tea box. I take an English breakfast teabag, go to the hot water, and turn the tap. The tea is drinkable and definitely an improvement on the muddy coffee.

Just as I put down my empty cup I see a few of my fellow team players with cappuccinos. Touch Down! Why didn’t I think of buying takeaway coffee?

After I had ingested the performance drug of my choice – caffeine – I entered the meeting room and saw an ocean of round tables. Where should I sit? What position should I play? The answer is quite simple and based on two concepts escape and food. When it is time for morning tea and lunch who gets out first? And if you want to sneak out for a bathroom break or make a phone call you can escape quietly.

The kickoff meeting reminded me of a very long Toastmasters meeting but without evaluators!

I struggled to suppress the urge to run up to the stage and offer my evaluation.

Mr CEO – that was a great introduction, friendly smile – and no notes. But watch those Ummms – take a pause to collect your thoughts! I liked your use of stories and the photos on the screen. But too much text on those Powerpoint slides!

I Imagined my listener grammarian report – Too much jargon – I counted 15 BEST PRACTICES, twenty seven THOUGHT LEADERSHIPS and 43 GOING FORWARDS – definitely the jargon of the day.

General Evaluator – The meeting was well moderated and kept to time. I recommend involvement in Toastmasters for certain senior managers to help improve .

What is the reward for playing in this all day match? Drinks. At 5 o’clock we are released into the foyer and greeted by waiters holding trays of wine, champagne and beer. I take the drink of choice for rugb players – beer – and pour it down slowly. It is refreshing and far superior to the morning coffee.

The game is over, we scored some goals and I feel ready for the next kickoff.


Author: charuzu

I live in Sydney and interests include music, piano playing, technology, cooking, English language, public speaking, Toastmasters, Asian culture (especially Japan and Korea), cinema, personal development, productivity and making friends with people from around the world.

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