Today over 10,000 individuals tuned in to watch the Twitter live stream announcement of the players that would be called up to the British and Irish Lions Squad, ahead of their Test series against South Africa this summer. But why is the Lions so special? Well, firstly the Lions tour only happens every four years. Secondly, the Lions tour brings together the best rugby union players from all four nations, who just a few months were ago were battling it out against each other as rivals in the Six Nations. Previously rivals, now these players must work together as teammates to compete against the current rugby World Champions. Will it be easy for players to put aside their differences?
The killer question and one the players and coaches may focus on. If we look to the current research around group dynamics, it would suggest that individuals working towards the same common goal, at the very least have that goal to connect over. So, hopefully the Scots, English, Welsh and Irishmen will be able to put aside their previous encounters and unite as one as they strive to win the series against South Africa.
Is this situation unique to the Lions?
Absolutely not. This transition whereby rivals become teammates is something we see often in and outside of sport.
Individual athletes in particular are often asked to join forces with other individual athletes to create relay teams in running or swimming, or to partner up in tennis or badminton and create a doubles team. The same can be seen in national team matches across multiple sports, where individuals from different club teams are asked to join forces in pursuit of national success, as with Glasgow and Edinburgh players coming together to form the Scotland National team.
More often however we witness the opposite, when teammates become rivals. This is observed in sport when athletes from the same team, or those who train together suddenly find themselves competing for the starting position or to be number one, and in the workplace with colleagues often going head to head for a promotion.
In sport and in life we are often asked to work with others, be it teammates, rivals, friends or colleagues. One of the greatest challenges we face is putting aside our past rivalries and focusing on our present performance as a team.
And so I would encourage you to ask yourself: what teams are you a part of? How do you work together with others in that team? Do you ever have to compete against each other? How does that influence your way of working? Are you able to put aside your differences in pursuit of the common goal?
A challenge lies ahead for this elite squad to put aside their differences and rivalries, find their common connection and unite the nations, as teammates in pursuit of success as the British and Irish Lions.