EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

Three tough decisions for return to play

With more and more sport opening up in the coming weeks, everyone will be excited about the prospect of training and even playing matches.

For some teams, the training sessions will almost run themselves as the players are keen to just be back together. For others, they might have lost a certain amount of confidence, fearing that their months of inactivity will make a training session a horrific aerobic disaster zone.

I think you have three tough decisions ahead of you.

ONE: TRAIN OR PLAY

Your first few training sessions back could be just one game after another. And there’s absolutely no reason to suggest that the training could not be totally play.

For younger age groups, this makes sense. For older age groups, and note I’m not putting an age on this, you might need to put in some more formalised “training” elements.

While these elements could be in the form of games, you should have some form of skills plan which the players know about. For example, “we will be looking at some quick passing under pressure”, or “getting back to the basics of making tackles”.

The tough decision comes when to make your interventions skills-orientated. My advice is that you should give every session a rugby purpose, even if you are clear that the sessions are about reconnecting and enjoying each others’ company. They are not mutually exclusive.

Here are some good skills-orientated games to try out.

The Circle Game

Find the bib – playing in four dimensions

TWO: CONTACT

Back to rugby and back to contact. RFU guidelines say that the limit is 15 minutes in any one session and it would be foolish to do otherwise.

Should you have contact in the first session? I think yes. This is a brilliant time to re-introduce the basics at a low level, with a clear stop point.

Here are some ideas for reintroducing contact.

Stage D sessions: Combining TACKLE and RUCK

Stage D 15 minute contact session

THREE: TEAM TIME

The team is back together. There may be some new faces too.

Lockdown has created some incredible stories of teams coming together to produce videos, raise money and find new ways to connect.

It has also been an isolating time, when some players have struggled to make those connections work.

The toughest decision will be about recreating the team environment in the shape it was before the lockdown or instead, recalibrating.

Have the language and rituals changed? Do you need to refresh the leadership group to reflect the new way forward? Does training need to have a different feel?

In essence, what worked before lockdown might not this time around because everyone is at least a little different.

On the other hand, this is also an opportunity: Exciting times to make a real difference to people’s lives. Rugby is the conduit for this. We are all looking forward to coaching and playing again, together.

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