Set up program

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 January 2014 09:18

The Code of Conduct brings structure to your team. Of course all your players know what to do from a technical perspective but you also need to describe how players should interact. Remember that development can be described in terms of Knowledge - Skills and Behaviour/Attitude. With the Code of Conduct you can describe the third.

The Code of Conduct is a good example of how you can bring players together to discuss the mutual expectations. The Code is something that belongs to the coaches and players. One season I had a lengthy discussion with a player about his behaviour. He saw no problem, I said "If that is acceptable in our team, I don't want to part of it". A strong statement that fired up the discussion in the whole team. (It ended with the player in question apologising in front of the whole team)

How to set up a Code of Conduct for Rugby

I hope you realise this is a team thing. Your role as the coach is to bring it all together. Set a meeting, brain-storm some ideas, finalise and document it. I even made all the players sign the final document. For youth coaches thi will be different of course, here you are a more the Teacher that sets a standard.

When I started with goalsetting exercises I found that some of the things that where said about goals would fit more in the Code of Conduct (like "Everybody should attend more training sessions").

As the coach you should set a sort of framework for this code, sort of the minimum things that should be part of the Code. The session is an opportunity for you to express your ideas and convince players! Take this responibility. From another perspective: if it becomes clear that you want more out of the team than they are willing to deliver, it will be a signal a possible pitfall: you want more out of it then your team......

Example of a Code of Conduct

In my team we have set up the following:

I discussed "Respect" and presented the following list:

Respect .......

  • the Referee
  • your opponents
  • your teammates
  • yourself

Off the field
We have special team polo shirts. Being part of the team is wearing these on the Sunday. I discussed the pre-match built -up (inverted U relation between anxiety and performance). Being on time is now an important part of the Code of Conduct. We do not wait anymore for players who are not on time.......

On the field
We decided how to criticise and give feedback to each other. What the role of the captain is (it turned out not much on the field: we decided that lots of his tasks are a shared responsibility). Special attention was given to how we handle new players.

Be there!
We discussed when and why you can skip training:

  • study for school
  • but party at school?
  • birthday? of family??
  • holiday

I always stress the responsibility towards your teammates: if the hooker is not there, we can not train the line-out, etc.

No, the document should very much be a living document. Special incidents and what came out of it should be reflected in the Code of Conduct.

So with all the players focused on a style of play, there specific functional roles and a code of conduct you have set the stage for your team to perform!

Related topics

  • Teambuilding: forming, storming, norming, performing
  • Functional roles: role definition, role acceptance, performance 
  • Sorry, I am not putting the Code of Conduct of my teams on the site ......

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 January 2014 09:24

From the web site "Coaching Youth Sports" by Richard K. Stratton


You have done all your work, evaluated last season performance. Looked at the players capabilities, developed a gameplan and set up your season planning. You are ready to go! But are your players (and their parents) on board? Do not miss this step: align with parents and get them involved in the correct way. 

Even in the National Under 18 team I coached the parents played an important role (although there where some important differences compared to club teams).

Planning a Preseason Team Meeting with Parents

Many coaches do not start off the season with a formal meeting that include the coaching staff, the athletes, and the parents. This is a mistake that can result in problems as the season progresses. Before your first practice of the season you should hold this type of meeting. There are many things that could be discussed. One consideration before setting the agenda is to include the parent(s) as well as the athletes in the meeting. This can help head off later misunderstandings between you and the parents about your coaching style, etc. In no particular order you should include on the agenda:

  • Your coaching philosophy
  • Your coaching style
  • Your general goals for the team
  • What you typically do during a practice session
  • What you expect from the athletes (athletes' rights and responsibilities)
  • What you expect from the parents (parents' rights and responsibilities)
  • Discussion of the risks involved in the sport (include a discussion of medical care processes)
  • Season practice schedule and game schedule
  • Allow time for questions from the parents and athletes.

Depending on the sport you are coaching there may be other issues such as: travel plans, bad weather contingency plans. In your discussion of your coaching style you might include things such as how decisions are made (leadership style), the role of assistant coaches if you have any, how you teach, and whether or not you use physical contact with the athletes when you coach.

The key is to cover anything you can think of that might come up during the season. Be thorough. Not only does this help reduce problems later in the year, but also gives the players and parents a feeling of confidence in you by demonstrating that you think and plan well for the best possible experience for the athletes on your team.

Team meeting for seniors?

Yes, when you see the list above it makes sense to have a similar agenda when setting up a meeting with a senior side.

The Perverse Triad

A whole theory behind this but in this setting it means that when a parent does not agree with a coach the child's loyalty will be torn between parent and coach. Definitely a situation we do not want! Tell the parents they need to support you and come to you when they not agree.

Remember we all need the same thing, a positive rugby experience.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 January 2014 16:53

How do we define strength or power?

Strength gives rugby players the opportunity to increase their performance. Is there a difference between strength and power? Yes, I think there is. We can define strength training as something that is just that: training to become stronger. Power training relates more to our needs: develop the players ability to explode from the scrum, hit the tackle or accelerate into a gap.

For top teams or Elite level weight training is a must, lifting weights in the gym is now an integral part of a professional rugby career. 

We develop power with a range of exercises. The plyometric form, agility training and the pulling and pushing exercises.

General Strength and Conditioning Exercises

These include many of the conventional weight-training exercises. Aim is to make your body fitter / stronger so it can handle the stress of the training and competition. Remember that I coach an Under 16 team that only trains two times a week? To improve the overall fitness of my team we do a fitness circuit on the pitch of 20 minutes twice a week. The core stability exercises are also part of this. Yes, I believe this is so important that it takes up 20% of my training time!

For a weight training program to be succesful the players need to work three times a week. This means that your team needs to work outside the normal club training - a big step forward.

The program is developed by John Kenbeek. He is the Strength Conditioning Advisor of the Dutch rugby union (NRB). We also use the program as a strength introduction training at our Talent Development Program. You can use it from 10 years upwards. Download it from the Free Dowload Section.

Specific Strength Training

Specific means developing your body not only from a muscle strength perspective but also improving the "drive": coordination and muscles as a group. These exercises should mimic actual play in a closed / controlled environment. People in Australia developed a squat machine where you are in scrum position. This is a good example.

Reactive or Speed-Strength Training

This is about developing your muscles to contract faster, delivering the power more quickly. The plyometrics are a good example of this. The SAQ program includes a lot of this type of work. So, follow the SAQ program and you are okay.

Preventive Gymnastics Exercises

This is training in the old classical sense. Jump over stuff, climb ropes, circuits, etc. All in order to improve overall strength. Used in rehab training. The goal of this type of training is to build strength in order to prevent an injury to reoccur.

Injury prevention

Of course you already knew: stronger muscles reduce the chance to get injuries.

What is the basis of the programs ?

The starting points when developing weight training programs for rugby are:

  • Overcome resistance doing the normal movement under a force
  • Normal movement require coordination of more than one muscle group
  • Deliver static power (scrum)
  • Bulking up (gaining muscle mass)

This means:

  • Integrate plyometrics in your regular field programs.
  • Use the players body weight as the basis for the programs.
  • Use bar- and dumbbells above machines: train in a more play related movement.
  • Know when to do what into the season.

Most of the machines are not capable of following the speed in the exercise we need. They were developed with a different purpose: to create a save environment in a gym where lost of people can train unattended.

This is why SAQ and those plyometric exercises are so interesting for any rugby training.


In the warm-up we can already include Reactive Training elements. The SAQ program has fantastic warm-up programs. They call this Dynamic Flex. I have a separate Warming-Up page.


With these exercises you will develop the muscle for fast contractions. It works on the principle that a contracted muscle can deliver more strength than when first lengthened.

Think about a coiled spring: immense levels of energy are released in a split second as the spring recoils. Plyometric exercises develop this recoil. Muscle fibre stores more elastic energy and transfers more quickly and powerfully from the eccentric to the concentric phase.

I combine the plyometric exercises with the speed and agility training I do in several stages.

  • start with developing the plyometric drills using exercises which are easy to do
  • use plyometrics right after warming-up, when players still have good coordination
  • gradually increase difficulty and intensity (simply count the number of jumps)

You can imagine that I was very pleased when I found out about SAQ......

How to set up a strength training program

Integrating plyometric exercises into your regular training sessions is relatively easy to do. Buy some background material, think about the role in the speed & mobility work. Create a nice mix and everybody can be involved.

If you have players who want to do real extra power work you have to think of the following.

The trick is to translate these issues to something that works for your players. These are steps I have followed:

  • Read up on the topic, you do not need to be expert on the topic but the essentials should be clear. I have found the book Strength Training for Football by Bruno Pauletto a good source of information. It is from 1996, the programs are a bit outdated now - get something more up to date.
  • Talk with your players, starting a weight training program is a long term thing.
  • Find a gym that suits your needs (lots of free weights, good staff, etc.). That is the easy option....
  • Define the different periods in your season (off-season, pre-season, in-season).
  • Determine the individual strength of your players and define the players programs.

How to use the standard program

  • Download the free weight training program from the free download page.
  • Adapt to personal preference.
  • Incorporate in regular schedule.
  • Test and adjust.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 January 2014 16:53

I used to had trouble piecing together interval training with my ball skill sessions. As a player at R.C.Hilversum we just did all interval training without the ball and did ball skills separately. It was felt difficult to combine the two. I have worked out the following system that works great for me. The three basic ingredients are:

  • Interval training scheme's written by Dave Mc Lean, fitness adviser of the S.R.U.
  • Ball skill exercises from Pierre Villepreux.
  • A stop-watch (I use a very cheap stopwatch from toys-r-us....).

Some examples:

  • David Mc Lean wants a work-to-rest ratio of 1 to 1, you can use two groups, 1 working and the other resting
  • work-to-rest 1 to 2, three groups bringing one ball up and down a grid

Look at this exercise of Villepreux for an example of 1 to 2:

Group B starts, crossing the grid while passing, at the end passing the ball to group A, which brings to ball back to group C. So, 1 group works, 2 groups rest. You can vary the length of the grid, or the size of the group or even add a group to change the interval parameters.

One of my favorites is where I have the groups run between the 22m lines. I do 5 series of 4 runs in a 1:1 ratio. I allow the groups to cross in 12 sec's. or less and gives them a 90 sec. rest between the series. Mind you it is the drop-off especially in the last series that counts. If players are really unable to make the 12 sec. you know your schedule is too tough. Look back in Mc lean’s file to prepare for next weeks session. Either allow for more time to cross or do less runs or series. Use the pulse count (between 100-120) to start the next series. After a while you get to know the recovery well.

If you are not to well versed on heart rate

Heart Rate (HR) is a good measurement for monitoring fitness. Not so much high and low but more how quickly it goes up when doing an exercise and going down when resting.

How to monitor HR when doing interval exercises?

Everybody can feel their pulse or what I always do: let players feel their pulse in their neck. I have a cheap stopwatch and call "start" (a normal watch with seconds is
okay too)

  • Players start counting
  • I call "stop" after 10 seconds
  • Players have to multiply by six to get their HR
  • Everybody calls out their HR: listen for highs and lows average out (some players will have extremely low or could not have found their pulse, do not worry about this)
  • Then, after a minute of rest repeat: the average should be much lower.
  • Perhaps u15 would have a HR of 150 right after an interval training - look
    for 120 after 1 min rest.

Interval training is focused at having the HR going up and down: you should learn to choose your intervals to optimize this. Difficult to learn at first!

I do not think many teams have heart rate monitors so how do you find out what the optimum rate of your team is? This what I do:

  • I have all the players count their pulses (I call start - stop for six seconds interval so us rugby players only have to add a zero...) and I try to identify those players who are average for the team. These are the players that will become the thermometer for the team and I will then clock myself.
  • Use the stopwatch to clock the drop-off

Learn to select the work: rest ratio's for your exercises using the tables of David Mc lean's paper. Using his interval tables result in good lactic threshold raising intensity.

Another example

  • 3x3 is three series of three runs, a series could be a cross-over of a grid - rest - back - rest - cross again. Check HR immediately after third run.
  • The rest during the series is your variable: if crossing takes 10 seconds and you want to work at a work:rest ration of 1:3 you rest them 30secs. You will get experience on the size of the grids and the cross over time as you go along.....
  • Start the next series of three runs when HR is 100-110.

At the start of the season your team will need longer rest to make the crossovers in time: gradually the W:R will drop. Do not worry about giving the players lots of rest, focus them on quality work. Use the rest period actively: slow pace jog, ball handling skills, time to explain things, drink water, etc.


Link to the free download page to download Mc Lean’s fitness paper and the corresponding training session builder.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 January 2014 19:50

There is a relation between the performance of a player and the level of his arousal. A player can be under- and over aroused. In the built up to a game we need to get everybody at an optimum arousal level in order to get peak performance. A model describing this is the Inverted-U model. This inverted-U relation between performance and arousal is shown below.

Optimum Arousal

As you can see there is an optimum. Every player should play at the top of the curve. This is where you - the coach comes in.......

Key factors

The key factors in arousal management are:

  • Best performance results from optimum arousal states 'flow'.
  • For each type of rugby skill there is a different optimum level of arousal (think of goal kicking, scrummaging, throw in the line-out).
  • Each individual rugby player has his own different curve.
  • Players at different levels of skill ability have different levels of optimum arousal (beginner / experienced).
  • The task of you the coach is to match the curves of each individual.

A player should strive to get at optimum arousal level and should learn to control this. This is not so difficult. I discuss these things with my players making them aware of the curve and how they can control their arousal level.

A player is over-aroused

The attention of the player shifts, his vision narrows and he starts worrying. Other signs are muscle tightness. Everybody has different body signs.

A player is under-aroused

Unfortunately the same symptoms can apply here.......

The role of the coach

First get to know your players and their individual optimum arousal level. As a coach you have to realize that not every player needs a pep talk perhaps players need to relax and calm down.

You can help players to learn to improve their arousal management levels. I have drawn the inverted-U for the players and discussed the aspect of arousal management with them. The book "Winning, the Mental Way" gives you and your players exercises for this. As an example, I used to coach a club where in the second team the no. 8 of the National Women's team played amongst men. In the Women's league there was not enough competition for her and she started playing amongst the men. Going back to the National team games she had difficulty to play at that same intensity. The exercises in the book helped us out. She had a great World Cup...... The exercises let the players tune into their body signals, rate their arousal level and their performance after the game. This makes the players more aware of what is happening to them before and during the game. Mental rehearsal: let them compare good performance with the built up..

Emphasis on "doing your best" and set individual performance outcome goals. Create an atmosphere where players can develop. Check out the Joan Duda part of this site on "Task Orientated" environment and how you as a coach can create this.

Let the players visualize positive images. Again goalsetting is part of this.

Achieve Self-Control of arousal

Try to follow the same mental preparation procedures, make it a habit or routine. Encourage players to improve their skills in this area too. Key points are

  • Develop the mental skills.
  • Practice these skills.
  • Do not use this the first time before a big game.
  • This is a individual skill, every player is different.
  • Improving these skills takes practice (with the National team player I mentioned above, it took 4 - 6 months). This is not a quick-win.
  • Mental skills are not a substitute for physical skills, they complement each other.

More on management arousal and related subjects:


Page 1 of 7

<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Next > End >>