Jungle tiger

Train ugly

A tiger that says “maybe hunting is not my thing”. Of course this tiger will survive in the zoo but die in the jungle…. This is a very powerful metaphor that Trevor Ragan is using to describe that learning new stuff is not easy, that it is hard work and it is okay to make mistakes. In short, that learning will look ugly. How do we develop our players: in the Zoo or the Jungle?

Looking ugly is good

My friend Desmond Tuiavii was a bit unsure about the program we had set-up to develop Open Play. Starting with the action of the Ball carrier and the players in inmediate support. The players had difficulty and it looked messy, was the training a success? Suddenly the team had a great game and everything gelled together nicely. All the time Desmond thought it was “Ugly” his players were learning.

Trevor Ragan his Train Ugly concept is very much based on the work of Carol Dweck and her Growth Mindset approach.

Hard work and perseverance is rewarded, not just the success. He learns players that success is the result of the learning process just as losing is. Here is the Jungle Tiger video on YouTube, but spent some time on the Train Ugly website!

It is okay to make mistakes?

When learning new techniques it is normal we will not be able to execute this perfectly. So our focus as coaches is not only presenting the new technique but also helping the player mentally to deal with failure.

Do we create a learning environment like a zoo? How much structure do you create? Or is it an environment where the Jungle Tigers thrive!

When players are sloppy & lazy?

This is of course what we do not want to see. Making a mistake is still a big thing! But how do we coaches react? Rather than doing ten push-ups or the run around the pitch (the infamous Hennie Mullers!) we should question ourselves:

  • Is my training exercise challenging my players, or is it boring?
  • How did they get into autopilot, how did we get in the Zoo?

It is a jungle out there! But Cadavers?

The “Jungle” of Train Ugly is not the free for all environment where you have to survive bullying and punishments to become part of the team. Some old teammate of mine called this the Cadaver Discipline…..

Pierre Villepreux’s method

I do think that Pierre his approach fits nicely in the Growth Mindset learning model. He can adjust the difficulty of the learning situation to match the level of the players. Mistake? just feed a new ball.

Reference material


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