During this phase clear leadership is needed, after the period where players are looking for their position in the team, the coach should take his responsibility and bring the players together and discuss the way everybody in the team should interact on and off the pitch. Things to do are setting up team meetings, have individual meetings, appoint a captain, develop a Code of Conduct and set-up and define functional roles, plays and scenario’s.

Remember, you as the coach has to create an atmosphere in which players feel free to express themselves. Some of my experiences are discussed on this page. (Knowing what I do now, puts everything I did in the past in another perspective).

Functional Roles

What do you want your players to do and what do want them not to do? A lot of mistakes can be prevented from happening if you clarify this to your players. Once you have defined what responsibilities come with each position, players will have to accept those responsibilities and can focus on performing those tasks.
You can easily bring more structure in your team by discussing these issues. You will be amazed by how easily most players will accept these roles.

The Rotterdam Colts Warming Up Case

In the first two months of the season I got into the dressing room, announced the positions for that game, made some general remarks, and left everybody to themselves. I showed no involvement at all, even left the dressing room. Players were obviously not ready, a lot of hassling and arguing before the game, players too late on the pitch for a proper warm-up, not focussed and concentrated for the game. Results: two losses due to a poor start, frustrated players and sloppy discipline.
Team evaluation time! I explained how you can influence your own and other players anxiety levels, drew the curve on the whiteboard showing the players that your anxiety level can also be too high. We discussed a good dressing room / warm-up routine and decided I would stay in the dressing room and do the warm-up before the game. This is what we did:

We sticked to our pre-match routine, even during the championship final (which we won, the other team was already on the pitch one hour before kick-off)

Developing a Code of Conduct

Why do you need a code of conduct? Because it describes how players / coaches socially behave, how players should interact and because the Code of Conduct is set up by the team everybody has to live by it.
How to set it up? I set up a special page on this topic.

Martin on plays

"When do we start learning team plays?". All the time this question. I understand why players want to practise set plays, but in most cases it is just a strange need for security, hiding from taking initiative and responsibility. This is the clear danger: if something goes wrong, nobody is able to adjust.
What I do is the following.

  1. First establish the basics: pass out wide, look inside for support, where do support players run to, what to do in contact situations.
  2. Then work on defensive principles, explaining the inside shoulder, outside shoulder and what any attacker should run into.
  3. Third, define team basics: first attack blind side, then open wide. Kick-off options, penalty: kick for touch or quick tap?
  4. Develop small scenario's: some back row moves, blind side wing and full-back in the line moves.

The result? Players are now aware why they do moves, can decide on the where and when and can think of 'Plan B' emergency options when things go different.

Individual discussions

When players don't interact (behave socially) you have to kick them out. They disturb the concentration of all the others and kill the pleasure of playing for everybody. I switched a player from fly-half to full-back to get him out o the centre of things. Another player kept putting other players off with his well intended remarks, together we discussed how to focus on his own tasks.

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