Skilful footwork can improve acceleration, agility and balance. But get a two-in-one benefit by using footwork ladders to also develop your players’ heads-up decision-making. It’s a simple session to improve agility in decision-making exercises – and very easy to set up and vary. MORE
An easy way to enhance footwork and reactions is to use six flag poles – which almost all rugby clubs have.
Using the poles, these exercises simply change angles of running and force players to look ahead to see spaces and defenders, just as they would in a match situation.
Warm up time: 5
Session time: 5-8
Development time: 6-9
Game time: 15-20
Warm down time: 7
What to think about
Keeping players upright through the poles is a key factor. It ensures a player is balanced and can look up and see where to move next. He will also deal more effectively with receiving or delivering a pass.
Be strict on players NOT touching the poles. You will need to think about how far apart you want the poles to be in each gate and between gates.
Do not make the angles too sharp to start with but you may find tighter turns will be useful as players become used to this session.
- Stay upright through the poles, looking ahead to where you need to run or pass to next.
- Step hard before regaining full balance to go through each gate of poles.
What you get your players to do
Set up three gates of poles as in the top picture. Stand between two of the gates.
A player runs through the first gate. As he reaches the first gate, point to which gate to run through next. This means he has to keep his head up and be aware of his surroundings.
Develop by adding a feeder to pass the ball to the player as soon as he exits the first gate.
Set up the gates and feeders as in the middle picture. A player runs through each gate, catching and passing as soon as he has exited each gate.
Develop by changing the length of passes. Also you can add in three supporting players, who have to receive a pass from the player running through the gates.
Set up the gates as in the bottom picture. Have one player run out through the first gate and then turn either left or right to a second gate. A supporting player also runs through the first gate and then runs through the gate the ball carrier did not go through.
Once the players are through the second set of gates, have a defender come forward to defend his try line.
What to call out
- “Don’t touch the gates, keep upright and balanced”
- “Look ahead as you make your changes of direction”