EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

3 ways a whiteboard can create a player centred environment

I first witnessed a whiteboard being used during a visit Twickenham, to watch an England open training session. During a water break, Head Coach Eddie Jones then pointed out the information on the board. I was captivated by how the players stood and silently processed the information.

From my position in the stands I could make out the layout of the text on the whiteboard which appeared to be contained with simple bullet points. By chance, I later came across a post on twitter from a junior training camp, showing a whiteboard being used to show the timings of the session. It was clear information for the players to follow.

These two nuggets of inspiration gave me some ideas of how I could reuse my old office white board, which had become redundant through no fault of its own.

AN INFORMATION POINT

The first idea was to provide clear, uncluttered information to the players on arrival for the session. After gathering the player feedback from the previous game and training, I planned a very simple flexible schedule which could be summed up on the whiteboard in bullet points form.

If anything needed to change, any of the words could be wiped away. The whiteboard can adapt and change, just like any good coach.

The key to any coach-player interaction, including verbal and non-verbal, is keeping it simple. Otherwise, there’s a risk coaches will encounter a glazed look from a player after they have been told too many things all at once

Along with the brief plan for the session, myself and the other coaches would have a theme for the evening accompanied by a couple questions on the theme for the players to read. Players would get the opportunity to answer these questions later in the session in small groups.

I usually place the board at the drinks station, drawing players to it when they arrive. This creates a great way of starting a conversation among the group with very little coaching intervention. It gets players instantly excited and thinking about the problems they’ll have to solve as well as setting their expectations for the session ahead.

The placement also means that the players can continuously reflect on the aims and questions on the board during drinks breaks throughout the session.

Key takeaways

  1. Keep it simple.
  2. Place the whiteboard where it can be seen.
  3. Use player feedback to inform.

GETTING PLAYERS TO THINK

My coaching style aims to use questioning to draw out the knowledge from players and as a coach it’s very important part of the journey to get to know what your players are thinking and how they think. A whiteboard that prompts questioning has helped me achieve this with my team.

What started as only one use of my redundant office whiteboard has now evolved into a multifaceted approach. I wanted to use the whiteboard to redirect the huddles players and coaches have in matches and training.

From observing different huddles as a coach and on the touchline, I have noticed that those contributing consisted of the same group of people. Although they were sharing valuable information nothing was being written down for the players to use as feedback for later. This meant that when an individual from the group was questioned on what was shared, their recollection became a little cloudy.

In response to this, I began to ask the players to write down their thoughts about the game on the whiteboard. I, and the other coaches, wanted them to reflect on what was going well and this helped the players discuss in more detail the points made in a group. Later on within the session, they were then able to review their boards and see if they were acting upon the points raised.

Key takeaways

  1. Use questions to draw out knowledge.
  2. Get players to write down feedback from team huddles.
  3. Players can reflect on improvements using the whiteboard.

A COACHING TOOL

This method has also been a great resource for coaches as well. The feedback players write helps you understand what the group are seeing in the game and what they may have missed. Using the points raised on the whiteboards you can then set your coaching questions to the group or individual.

What started out as an initial idea to use an old whiteboard has grown into a key coaching tool for myself and the team. Players and coaches walk away from a session with more information because each rugby puzzle piece has become easier to distribute and talk about.

The whiteboards ensure a key message is undiluted and provokes curiosity within each player. I feel it has helped me define a player centred way of coaching. I’m still discovering ways of using a whiteboard within a session, they can be adapted to suit each session and coach.

Key takeaways:

  1. Players writing on the whiteboard gives the coach more insight.
  2. Players and coaches leave the session with more information.
  3. Use a whiteboard to achieve a player-centred coaching method.

TIPS FOR GETTING PLAYERS TO CONNECT WITH THE WHITEBOARD

  • Place the whiteboard where they can regularly see it.
  • Personalise the text: use “you” and “yours” in questions and write them in different colours.
  • Capitalise the writing to make it easier to read.
  • Get players thinking about problem-solving by writing tactical question.
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