When we discuss personal development and the assistance provided by our team of Player Development Managers (PDMs) as part of Gain Line, we at the RPA emphasise that our goal is to support players in their off-field growth, which in turn contributes to their on-field performance. A notable instance of this occurred a few weeks in the Red Roses camp, which is the team I am dedicated in supporting.
When the Red Roses took on Canada in September, several players told me that Lark Atkin-Davies got up at 6am on game day, much earlier than she needed to, to help braid her teammates' hair. The players who usually do the others hair were injured and not in the squad, and a partner of one of the players was called in to assist, and I recognised that such activities and that early wake up call were not conducive to match day preparation. This is where Gain Line intervened to provide support.
Collaborating with England Rugby, we co-ordinated the presence of experienced hairstylists ahead of the second test against Canada to braid the players' hair, receiving positive feedback from the players, as you can see from the photos below. Additionally, I arranged an evening workshop during training camp before the team flew off to New Zealand, where players could gain hands-on experience and learn how to braid hair themselves, enabling the entire team to participate in game day hair preparation.
This initiative not only reduces the stress of managing their hair while playing but also eliminates the need for early rising to assist their teammates before the game. It exemplifies the individualised approach that Gain Line adopts in providing personal development support and equips players with a valuable skill they can utilise in New Zealand and beyond.
The example above shows the variety that all PDMs can offer to members of the RPA – one day, I could be helping a player explore different career paths, the next I could be checking in with a player who is struggling and the next I could be support their wellbeing by trying to find solutions to reduce their anxiety around game days.