On the 19th November we were proud co-hosts, together with Venture X and London Irish, of our first live Rugby Network of 2021, when our guests enjoyed drinks and a Q & A session with London Irish legends Topsy Ojo, Sean O’Brien and Rob Simmons, before watching London Irish v Saracens at Brentford Community Stadium. It was a brilliant occasion and Topsy Ojo was such a warm and friendly person – truly a fitting Ambassador for London Irish.
But the evening was about more than playing rugby and, as I chatted with Topsy afterwards, I felt he made insightful comments which could apply to the world of business as well as to rugby. He talked about how the game gives back: “You put the work in, but then the sport looks after you”. Talking about his team-mates, Topsy said, “Team spirit is something you have to work at. It’s about learning to understand people. Getting to know them off the pitch helps too, so when things are tough on the field you dig a little deeper for one another. Going out for team dinners, connecting socially, it all matters. In a large group, you may not get on with everyone, but it’s about putting professional objectives first”. He added, “Getting to know people and working with them over many years brings a level of comfort that builds confidence during times of pressure”.
Topsy also spoke about what he does since retiring as a player: “I enjoy coaching, working in the media, and business. I coach at different levels and enjoy mentoring school kids. I tell them to start thinking about their career as early as possible – work with a friend, coach, or teacher. Try different things and get experience”. Working as an Ambassador for London Irish is also important for Topsy – “We do a lot in the community, working with charities and schools and a homelessness project”. Commenting on his media career, and participating in a photoshoot with Amazon’s pundit team, he said: “Being in the centre of that photoshoot was an experience I’ll never forget – Gaby Logan is a gold-standard presenter – someone we can all learn from. Meeting Thierry Henry was special”.
It was a pleasure to speak to Topsy who is an excellent role model, not only for rugby, but also for society generally, as he gives so much back to help people in the community. His observations about rugby also made me think about business applications and action points that could be relevant for team-building, learning and development – a worthwhile evening on more than one level.
All images by Andreea Tufescu Photography