Coaching style

How to get the kids into a learning mode? Start with the right coaching style!

We can learn and know everything about rugby, but if we cannot transfer it to the players it is all worth nothing. How to switch them on? This is what I do….

Fun factor

It should be fun to train, but what is fun? A smile on their faces when they leave after training? Happy parents? All inclusive, everybody can join in?

Is having fun the same as entertaining then? Sure, there are lots of fun games and for example “Rob the Nest” really fits in the Under8 and Under10 age groups with movement, ball skills and it is a bit of competition too. But there should be more: the tactical aspect. We should have a structure, a common theme and a repeat with a couple of weeks. I learned the young kids really do not mind when you have the same exercises regularly for a period of six weeks.

Teach the game not the skill

The positive feedback I got from a coach watching me. I was teaching the game, not running a drill.

One step back: why do we love rugby? I used to play a version on Netball and for me starting in rugby to catch a ball and run with it was unbelievable freedom. This is the same for all rugby players, we have the ball, we run into space, defenders are closing in and the excitement starts. I feel the Duel is the basis of rugby and should be included in a lot of our training sessions. If we can give the players that excitement, we are creating the right kind of fun.

Training DIOK Under 12’s

Arthur asked me to help run a training session for his Under12’s. I ran Pierre Villepreux his sideline start exercise where both Attackers and Defenders start on the side line so there is a lot of space to run into.

But of course, the Ball Carrier sort of pulls the defenders into the same space too. What to do…?

Normally these are some of the scenario’s that are played out:

  1. Ball Carrier simply scores in the corner and has a great experience: run onto space can result in tries: I ask the Defenders if a taking another starting position on the side line allow them to better defend the space on the outside (Their first encounter of the Pythagorean theorem?)
  2. The Attackers have difficulty to get forward momentum: I start the exercise as the first receiver and move forward – sort of nudging the attackers in a forward move. The Defenders are allowed to move into the grid when I pass the ball.
  3. The Defenders manage to close the space quickly, stopping the Attack: I tell the first receiver to pass the ball through quickly. Or, I start the Attackers in the grid.
  4. The movement is quit diagonal, Attackers & Defenders all end up on the other side of the grid. This is very interesting, how to continue from there? You can ask how it has come to be that the available free space has been used with very little result. You can either reset and start on the side line again, or play that second ball.
  5. The movement is diagonal, the Ball Carrier steps inside, against the Defenders moving outwards: I ask the Ball Carrier what he did, why he did it, what did he see. You can ask the supporting players how they should react.

Running this exercise I try not to overreact, give the players time to explore, I encourage them during the play and choose my moments to provide feedback.

Development Phase

Perhaps Under 10s but definitely the Under 12’s is when play can move from individual to teamplay. We need to transfer/translate the development of the young egocentric mind to the growing awareness of others into the rugby game: it is about the Ball Carrier and the 2-3 players directly around him. Their task is to keep the ball alive.

With the Sideline Start exercise and the Under 12’s we can learn a lot of our players in this development phase: is it still ego centric? do support players actively support the Ball Carrier or are the just “presenting” themselves as players that can receive the ball?

How about DIOK Under 12’s?

They had difficulty to appreciate the exercise. Mostly scenario’s 1. and 4. were played out. In that scenario where everybody ends up on the other side of the pitch, players either tried the strong carry or the went to the ground to start a ruck – not looking for that creative solution to the problem.

Fun: yes, they were excited about the freedom and that race to the space. Enjoyed the challenges.

My advise to the DIOK youth coaches was to discuss and agree on the options. Do they want to adopt a reset/ruck based style with start & stop or choose the Life of the Ball style with off-loads and immediate go forward? Obviously I am in the latter Pierre Villepreux camp! Always time to do the ruck stuff later.

Coaching Style?

We need to challenge the players, put them in this scenario, learn from their options and ask what the next step. Things I also do:

  • “Photo” all players stop and I can evaluate their positions on the pitch in relation to ball, I can ask what if questions and have them actually execute this with feeding that second ball;
  • Ask players what they saw and how they reacted to it;
  • Have a time-out and ask the two teams to have a small huddle and re-think their strategy;
  • What Pierre calls “Lancement” is about how to start and feed the ball to the Attackers, try to entice them to go forward, perhaps block that first Defender in his run

Me asking questions verbally is not really different from me putting them into that learning experience… Your role moves away a bit from being a Rugby Guide to that of the Rugby Teacher.

Related material

I used to play for R.C. Hilversum against DIOK for the National Championship many years ago, fun to do a guest appearance for the DIOK Mini’s as a trainer!

What are your expectations for your team running this side line start exercise?

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