EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

3 ways to upskill your own coaching

A few seasons ago, I enhanced my own coaching in three ways leading to excellent improvements in my players’ skills. Here’s what’s made a difference.

1 MODELLING BEST PRACTICE

WHAT IS IT?

In training, players respond well to seeing the skill or technique executed well. It provides them with a template to follow themselves.

HOW DO I IMPLEMENT IT?

Though we, ourselves, can be a good model for best practice, it’s even better to have one of the more-experienced players demonstrate. I will normally prepare them before the session to give them some pointers to help them understand what I’m looking for.

When training is going on, it is good to pull aside less-experienced players or those who are struggling to move forward with the skill to highlight what best practice looks like. I might be asking questions like: what do you see and what could you do yourself to follow that?

2 PEER COACHING

WHAT IS IT?

Players interact with each other to discover what went well and what they could do to improve. They bounce ideas off each other to find ways to develop together.

HOW DO I IMPLEMENT IT?

We tend to work in small groups as much as we can and at the end of each section, I might facilitate some discussion. To help each level of player, I might ask a more-experienced player to identify some of the key points and perhaps what we might improve upon.

For less-experienced players, I might ask how they felt and what they think they did well. The key is to keep this part of the session quite short, no more than a minute or so. Two to three questions at most and then we are back into the practice.

3 MORE PRACTICE TIME

WHAT IS IT?

Getting players to have as many touches on the ball (or the other players!) as possible during training time. Also, the players really appreciate to practise more.

HOW DO I IMPLEMENT IT?

We split into four groups of around 5 or 6. Say we have four groups, then two of the groups would have a senior player in that group. I will work with another group and the assistant coach with the other one.

We will work inside a smallish area, so I can easily look over at the other groups, or even move over to a group if necessary. That means that, with small numbers, each activity gives the players lots of touches on the ball.

To make this work better, I will talk to the two senior players before training to outline the parts of the session where they might be taking on a “coaching” role. When we start this part of the session, we will set up one group, show everyone what’s going on and then they can go off and practise. This sort of coaching set-up also keeps senior players active and involved. It motivates them through empowerment as well.

GREAT GAINS AT THE RUCK

I’ve found these methods of coaching have made a big difference in decision making at the cleanout – removing opposition players from the tackle ball.

The less-experienced players watch how the better players identify the threat. They see that it doesn’t just mean the player who’s going for the ball, but how they might be dealt with. In other words, it helps these players identify the threat earlier.

KEY LESSONS

  1. Use your more-experienced players to demonstrate or lead parts of the session.
  2. Let the players get plenty of time to practise – small groups and not much talk help!
  3. Ask questions at the end of each section of the session, but keep it short and snappy.
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