by Kimball Kjar
Every coach in rugby has seen it. His or her team makes a great line break, looks to be away or at the very least has a distinct numerical advantage and then for what ever reason the ball carrier gets tackled and is isolated from his support.
The following play results in either a turnover, a penalty for the other team or some form a labored and slow possession.
No matter what you call it either of these outcomes is a momentum killer.
A variety of coaches have discussed and taught the role of “slow-ball” tactics, and these tactics all have their place in the modern game of rugby.
But the thing often overlooked is that most slow ball situations can be prevented.
The principles of the play dictate that the following standards in attack be followed:
The key to avoiding “momentum killer” phases lies in the decision-making during #3 and #4.
Where rugby players at all levels typically fail is the ability to confidently see, communicate and make decisions around what to do once they’ve established go forward or as I call it, positive momentum.
Not only does positive momentum mean that things are happening fast, but its begs a team to make decisions even faster to ensure they don’t lose the momentum that has been built and to even add to it in order to continue building momentum.
Put that all together and you have a perfect situation that, if not trained and taught properly, most players will succumb to and create momentum killing phases.
So how does a team train to maintain momentum and avoid the deathly “momentum killing” phases?
I would break it down to the following core areas:
Individual skills include passing, footwork and body position as the ball carrier to offer the best-case scenario in contact if it is imminent.
Other individual skills include off-loading, leg drive in contact and of course ball presentation skills in contact.
Unit skills focus on support lines, communication and body position as the support runners.
But most importantly in unit skill training is the ability to see space, not only as the ball carrier, but also as the support runner.
Unit and team decision-making will focus on the team’s pattern of play in context of the team’s player profiles.
The skill sets of a team and the coaching methodology will determine the decision-making options to practice.
We could go on here belaboring a point that all coaches run into in their roles—that is to avoid “momentum killing” phases.
But the end goal is to not over-train the band-aid of slow ball tactics, but to better improve our players’ abilities to prevent it from happening in the first place.
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