by Tom Billups, C.S.C.S.
I am a rugby player from Washington, D.C. playing number 8 at my high school, but I'm not the biggest player, even though I start on the A-side. I was thinking about switching positions to something that I could excel at more, like hooker or scrumhalf. What would you recommend for someone like me looking to play a different position, and what training advice would you give a high school varsity rugby player looking to eventually play on the national team?
Looking to improve
Dear Looking to improve,
Congratulations for being a starter on your high school team. I am always glad to hear from young rugby players who are curious about improving their game. Since I have not seen you play, I will do my best to provide you with what I have found to be sound advice for players like yourself.
The first question to answer, by my way of thinking, regarding where you should play is what is best for your team? Which position is it that your skills, tactical awareness, and athleticism will help your team reach it’s potential? If it is at number eight this season, than I would encourage you to continue to compete at that position. As a number eight, you will, along with the halfbacks, touch the ball more times in a match than most of the team. As a coach, I always want my best players to have a lot of touches of the ball during the match.
The second consideration is that as a high school player, you should have a second and third choice position that you can safely play. I mention the safety aspect because the front row positions are very technical, and you need to have a sufficient amount of technical training and physical development to play in the front row, especially if it is a second or third choice position for you.
The third element for your consideration is that your body is going to continue to mature and develop, so it might be a early to become a specialist in one position. Although you feel you are undersized at the moment, you might well experience a growth spurt over the next year, and that might steer you toward another position altogether. I would encourage you, regardless of whether you change positions or not to get engaged in a proper off-season strength and conditioning program. This will enable you to be as prepared as possible to play any position on the field. Include in your off-season work time to develop your speed, agility and quickness, as this will help you regardless of whether you remain a number eight, or become a hooker or scrumhalf in the future. Being quick and dynamic as a rugby athlete will make you appealing to any coach.
Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy the game. Sports are about competing and challenging yourself, and there is a wonderful sense of enjoyment when you have done your absolute best for your team, regardless of which position you play.
Best of success,
Tom Billups began his rugby career in 1984 and has spent time as a player in New Zealand, the U.S. and England for domestic teams as well as representing the U.S.A. at international tournaments with the Eagles. After hanging up his boots, Billups got into coaching leading the Eagles and now with University of California – Berkeley. Read the entire bio of Tom Billups as well as Billups first column My Rugby Path and then check out what Billups is saying about the game of rugby in The Billups Column on Rugby Rugby.
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