Paul Boross is “The Pitch Doctor”, an internationally recognised authority on communications, presentation, performance and “the art and science of persuasion”, and appears regularly on worldwide conference programmes, at international television and media events and in feature articles. Paul has worked with many executives in a range of organisations such as the BBC, Google, The Financial Times, Barclays and MTV, as well as public figures such as Sir Richard Branson, Ainsley Harriott and Sky newscaster, Dermot Murnaghan. Paul is the resident team psychologist and presenter on the on-going SKY TV series School of Hard Knocks. the following Q&A gives you an insight into the decision making / process on the programme and its participants inclusion……….
What kind of men were candidates on the School of Hard Knocks and what challenges were they facing?
School of Hard Knocks candidates come from a myriad of different backgrounds and the only criteria we have is that they must be unemployed. We have people who have spent time in prison, we have people who have been homeless, we have people who have been in care, we have people who have various addictions. The show visits some of the most deprived and challenging areas of the UK.
However, these are not the real challenges faced by these young men; these are merely the symptoms. The underlying problem is really a lack of confidence and lack of belief that they can rise above what they have been before. Everyone has tough times in life, everyone makes poor decisions, but people who succeed are able to put those mistakes behind them and move on. Once the young men prove to themselves that they can stand there and tackle an 18 stone man charging at them like are angry rhinoceros, it shows them that they can achieve anything that they put their minds to.
What skills did rugby teach them?
So many things, from the value of timekeeping and time management to communication, and of course to appreciate being part of a team.
Will, Scott and I are always stressing that successful people are the ones who take the knocks but keep on coming back for more. I always tell them the Chinese proverb about success that says that says ‘get knocked down seven times but get up eight’
Trust is critical to achieving anything in life, because we can’t achieve anything alone. Having to rely and depend on team mates on the pitch proves to the young men that it’s OK to trust others, and most importantly, that it’s OK to let other people trust you. Where trust and respect have often been missing from their lives, this can be a catalyst for real change.
Were there any standout moments where a candidate completely turned his life around?
Caine was referred to us by the probation service. He had a history as a young offender and, early on in the course, was a real troublemaker. He was an angry young man who fought against authority and questioned everything and everyone. He surrounded himself with the wrong people and this had a real negative impact on his attitude. He came very close to being excluded from the course due to his disruptive behaviour. Following several interventions from the coaches, he had a real moment of epiphany at the end of the two day on the induction process. He said “what am I doing? This is a genuine life changing opportunity”. At that point, he changed completely and the coaches and the group noticed that most enormous change in his attitude. From being a difficult and destructive person he shifted to being a conscientious, hard-working and positive man. His was one of the most dramatic journeys of change that we have witnessed over a series of School of Hard Knocks. He now has a passion to give something back and has already passed level one of the mentoring qualification. He is currently working towards his level two certificate. He wants to work with young offenders and it would be no surprise if he ends up working with the probation service to give something back to society.
Chris was living in a hostel where he said he was surrounded by crackheads and alcoholics every moment of the day. He had a hair-trigger temper and would regularly blow up and storm off whenever even the most minor thing happened during the course. He had been in trouble with the police. He had also had problems with being allowed access to his child and this probably contributed to his initially difficult temperament. He was the most nervous person we have ever seen in an interview – he was literally stuck dumb whenever he was put on the spot. After intensive interview coaching, he is now working on construction sites and learning about building skills on the job. He is earning a good wage which has meant he has been able to move out of the hostel and into his own one bedroom flat. This is a huge step forwards for him as this means he is one step closer to being able to regularly see his child.
Did anybody fail to complete the training?
Of course, in School of Hard Knocks, there are always some people who don’t see the course through to the end. Some leave for the best of reasons, because what they have learned in the early part of the course has given them enough of a push to get a job before they finish the whole eight weeks. However, some people are not ready to put discipline into their lives and are not ready to change things for the better – and that’s OK, because they’ll make those changes when the time is right for them.
Why rugby – do other sports teach young men the same kinds of skills?
It’s difficult to find another sport that has all of the attributes of rugby. For a start, rugby caters for pretty much every body type. The ‘big units’ can find their place in the pack whilst the ‘wee fellas’ can be scrum halves. Rugby also has great ethos of discipline, where everybody listens to and respects the referee. Rugby is fantastic for teaching people communication skills that carry over into the workplace, and it’s also a great analogy for learning that in order to get on in life, you have to understand the importance of teamwork.
Do you think society is failing young men like this – if it takes a TV show to teach them theses skills?
Not at all – society can’t fail anyone, because society is not something that exists outside of us – we create it. Society is made up of all kinds of opportunities; some opportunities to do good, valuable, collaborative things, and some to do harmful, destructive, selfish things. We all make choices that we later regret. By making the TV show and at least helping some of these people back onto the right path, we’re proving that society can do the right thing, because we’re all part of that society.
What was your key role in the show, as a psychologist?
My role is to be there at all times to support the whole squad psychologically. When people are going through such dramatic life changes it can sometime lead to erratic behaviour. My role is to make sure that everyone knows that they have somewhere to address their issues. Sometimes this means following someone who has ‘thrown their toys out of the pram’ during training and by getting to the core of their issue, bringing them back into the fold. At other times, it is about providing mental preparation to individuals or the group, for their development both on and off the pitch.
And you did lots of interview training with them too? Can you tell us more about that and what it entailed?
Interview training was in two parts. Firstly, getting them into the right frame of mind regarding self confidence, belief in their skills and the sense of self worth that’s critical to creating a good first impression. Secondly, practising the interview process itself with questions, role plays and other tests designed to give them the stress of an interview in a safe environment, so that they could be more relaxed and perform better in the real interview. Ultimately, what any interviewer really wants is to get a real sense of the person across from them. Good interviewers will always forgive nerves when the candidate is being honest and is wanting to work at achieving success.
What are the men doing now?
Well you will have to wait until the last episode of this series to know what the men from Cardiff have achieved. However, there are so many success stories from previous series of School Of Hard Knocks that it is hard to know where to start. We have people in full-time work in practically every industry from the building trade to becoming accountants and everything in between. Some are now a qualified rugby coaches who are using their experience on the show to support young rugby talent and pass on the valuable life lessons that they learned.
We stay in touch with the men and I still get regular texts and tweets from them. Sometimes it is for a chat to help them get around a new obstacle that they’ve encountered but most of the time it is because they want to share their latest achievements. There really is nothing as gratifying as getting a call from one of our guys when he has just got an amazing new job and he wants to share how far he has come on the journey.
Hopefully, Sky will do another ‘Where are they now’ special so that we can catch up with many of the success stories over the past eight series.
What advice would you give to other young men who are struggling to get or hold down a job?
Simply to believe that your past does not define your future, and at any point in your life, at any time, no matter how tough things seem, you can make a change simply by doing something different. I know that might sound too simple when you can’t see a way out of your current situation, but really it’s true that any step in any direction is a step forwards. It doesn’t matter if the change you make seems big or small, it’s a change, and that’s always a change for the better. So if you want to get, or keep, a job, just make a start right now, do something different and keep going.
Paul Boross is “The Pitch Doctor”, an internationally recognised authority on communications, presentation, performance and “the art and science of persuasion”, and appears regularly on worldwide conference programmes, at international television and media events and in feature articles. Paul has worked with many executives in a range of organisations such as the BBC, Google, The Financial Times, Barclays and MTV, as well as public figures such as Sir Richard Branson, Ainsley Harriott and Sky newscaster, Dermot Murnaghan. Paul is the resident team psychologist and presenter on the on-going SKY TV series School of Hard Knocks. The new series of SOHK starts on Saturday 16th August at 10PM on Sky Sports and is repeated on Sunday 17 on Sky One at 10PM
Paul has now authored three books; The Pitching Bible, The Pocket Pitching Bible and Pitch Up! Visit www.thepitchdoctor.tv to learn more.