Plays and books have been written about Munster rugby's most elevating moments so maybe it shouldn't come as a huge surprise to find that the province now finds itself in the company of organisations as stellar as the Royal Shakespeare Company and NASA.
The province's lead performance analyst George Murray has explained just how these unforeseen connections have arisen out of the COVID-19 crisis and the upskilling undertaken by players and coaches as a result of diaries devoid of the usual day-to-day attention to preparation and the week-to-week grind of a normal season.
So, among the myriad Zoom sessions and webinars and personalised S&C programmes handed out this past two months came the idea to take part in a workship with professional storyteller Clare Muireann Murphy whose expertise has previously been sought by the British theatre company and scientists in charge of the USA's space programme.
“We are doing lots of CPD [Continuous Personal Development] and talking to different sporting organisations and different rugby organisations, and just wanted to go outside the box,” Murray told the Munster website. “We’re just looking at different ways of learning and how you can use different people to give you an insight in their industry and how they educate people in different ways.
“Somebody we came across was Clare Muireann Murphy, who’s a professional storyteller. Clare works with the British theatrical society and also works with different scientific groups and NASA. In particular, we wanted to focus in on how she works with NASA – largely it was based around scientists having all these amazing ideas and different things they want to implement, but not being the best at getting it across to different audiences.”
The collaboration may, on first impression, be straight out of left-field but it's one that makes a lot of sense given the reams of information coaches are expected to impart to large and disparate groups of players on a daily basis over the course of a campaign. Ensuring that messages are clearly delivered and easily digestible is not a skill that comes naturally to everyone.
“Another angle of her work is around the power of storytelling and the history of storytelling – how it influences people’s memory,” Murray added. “We obviously as a sporting organisation talk to the players a lot and help them remember the most important messages going into a game. A large part of our week is presenting to the players and coaches presenting to the players around what we want to do.
“We probably don’t think about how we do it enough. It was helpful to see how we can develop ourselves as speakers to help many different personalities to remember the most important messages.”
Members of Johann van Graan's staff have also picked the brains of former Munster player Paul Devlin who is now head of performance with a Brisbane Broncos side that is due to return to competitive action later this month.
“They were back in the gym last week and had multiple players getting personal bests around different things so it was great to learn from what they’ve experienced and implement that immediately,” said Murray. “It’s been really, really beneficial for us.”