The Rugby Coaching Manual
It is a good idea to plan the shape of your sessions before you ever start. Players will generally want to have a pretty casual game of touch at the start to get themselves warm and ready for when the latecomers arrive. Avoid their version of touch-rugby and introduce your own version of what you want at the first meeting; introduce a sensible game and do not allow a loose mess of what we usually see.
Your game needs to serve a purpose by demanding skills and concentration. One option is for the ball carrier to stop when he is touched. This can be refereed by one player or you can have the game stopped as soon as the defending player shouts, “Touch!” There will be arguments, but they have to play with unfair decisions each Saturday so it is not a bad training method. The player with the ball has to stop quickly after the touch, stand with feet astride and play the ball immediately backwards between his legs, using both hands to push the ball backwards and slightly upwards. If he uses only one hand, raises one foot, passes above his body height as he is bending down or the ball hits the floor, possession is turned over. You soon develop straight running lines and there is always the option to add rules as the game progresses – e.g. minimum of 2 passes before a break, miss pass(es), so many decoy runners etc. This will be far more demanding than the game that the players want to play.
The basic handling, passing and running skills that you will coach and nurture are important and the players need to know what you are talking about from the start. There are basics that all players need and lines of running principles are vital. You may have problems with this as many players agree with you conversationally but lose the plot as soon as they get a ball in their hand. The theory of aiming for the immediate defender’s inside shoulder is so simple as to be laughable, but why do your players understand that, yet run towards the touchline when they get the ball?
In your skill practices, do try to avoid the players starting in a straight line; this is so far removed from what usually happens in the chaos and turmoil in a game and rarely, if ever, will they start in this position during the eighty minutes on Saturday. By all means let the players learn what is required in the practice, but disorientate them slightly as soon as possible by first running them into a tackle, round a cone or through some poles. This has the effect of making players work and look to get to the best spot for the practice and it adds a valuable dimension to their game. At the same time encourage your players not to carry on with the move, practice or drill if it feels wrong or they know that the other players are out of position. This is part and parcel of getting game-related responses in training, which might just translate into good practice in club games. Stress the important point that it is rarely beneficial to anybody but the opposition to carry on passing ‘cock-up’ ball; make sure that your players understand this simple, but often overlooked, aspect of the game. If the ball-carrier senses that all is not well, suggest that he simply runs through to touch down at the end of the working grid or that he simply passes to a well-placed but ‘wrong’ player who happens to be available.
There are enough drills and practices around, but one little practice impressed me as holding all the core essentials in handling, passing and beating defenders whilst preserving the outside space. This outside space is all too easily eaten into or totally lost by players running laterally and its preservation is a vital aspect of effective game management. It is, however, a skill that requires constant vigil from the coach at all aspects of training as it is so simple for players to drift across without being fully aware of what they are doing and how they are adversely affecting their attacking options. Video can be very useful, especially if the camera films from the goal posts and not the touchline, so that the line of run from the first receiver can be seen to be crucial in virtually everything else that happens afterwards – on the training pitch from the first pre-season session to in-season practice sessions.
The coach is at the heart of all the work and he decides on the pace of things.
The practice is simplicity itself but it contains so many elements that all players need. The first attacker’s role becomes the hardest for many players and it is worth persevering with it as it affects backs in full flight and forwards in handling in cramped conditions.
The Rugby Coaching Manual is now available for easy order from Amazon. This book will greatly help any rugby coach whether they are an old pro or overseeing their first training sessions. For more tips or information on the book, please visit The Rugby Coaching Manual official site. And check out a preview of the other chapters from the book on Rugby Rugby.
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