You have to decide what you expect of your season, your team and the individual players. There is so much to learn, but how much time do you have? You have to make decisions, prioritise. Luckily, lots of coaches and unions have invested a lot of time in this already, you can simply start of with their work. Their Long Term Athlete Development (or LTAD) models helps us to understand the different phases of development and the best way to present learning. You can understand the role of an U10’s coach is really different from that of an Elite team.
You can use these LTAD models as a starting point for your goalsetting. I like the Irish version: Long Term Player Development, but my favourite is the development model of the French Rugby Federation, their 5 steps development plan maps more or less on the LTAD stages of development:
- The individual project: the very young and egocentric players need to recognise and use space;
- The collective project: players around the ball carrier are actively involved and help the ball carrier;
- Better understanding of penetrating play / lateral play, recycle and field positions;
- When space to attack is difficult to find: built a collective of plays to move the defenders around;
- Is for the international level where possession and territory are less important (look at their stats…)
(While working on ever extending the SuperCoach Online database I keep returning to this model to add appropriate and agegroup specific exercises)
Other factors are:
- Is winning important? If you are a Youth Coach you have a double-goal: you are also responsible for the long term development of you players and giving them a positive experience in sport.
- Target your opposition, what is needed to beat them?
- Use the experiences of last season.
This is also the moment to think about training cycles, you can outline a whole season/year, detail shorter cycles. What are the individuals goals for these cycles? I usually take these steps when talking to coaches.
- Explain the development model;
- Watch some video to get an understanding in what phase of development that specific team is;
- Again using the model: determine learning goals associated with that development phase;
- Decide on which two/three topics will be worked on in the next training cycle;
- Detail the individual sessions (of course for SuperCoach Online users this part is automated);
How do you want to play? You need to think about this, there are always two sides on this:
- What can be achieved with the players and training time I have, call it maximising the potential?
- What is needed to win / become national champion / to get promoted with the National Under 18? Than finding players to match that.
When you think of this or discuss it with your peers than you can set realistic goals. (And also take appropriate action like telling your teammanager to find a suitable budget…)
I was unbelievably lucky to closely observe and talk with sir Gordon Tietjens and his All Black Sevens team when they were preparing in the Netherlands for the Glasgow Common Wealth Games. He invited me to come to New Zealand when the Super Rugby players came in for preparation for the Rio Olympics and I watched the team prepare for the Wellington and Sydney Sevens. I truly enjoyed how specific his program was but most of all how he had short 3-5 minute individual talks with some of the players during / after each session. I do the same now with my own team and find that talking about what I think is an important next step for the player really accelerates their development, great interacting and learning more about them.
- I have a great questionnaire in the free download section that will guide you and your players through the goalsetting process, but be aware: this will take a lot of time!