EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

4 keys to games for learning

Help your players gain a better understanding of the game, using games and with these four key intertwined approaches. It all leads to better problem-solving under pressure in matches.

Use of a variety of games and activities deliberately creating a chaotic environment rather than a planned/structured one. This allows players to learn through discovery, experimentation, experiencing failure and also how to deal with dislocated expectations.

This provides players with the confidence to take ownership of their decisions leading to creativity and innovation and ultimately success as a more innovative player.

There are four levels to the game sense approach that coaches should try to follow.

01 A FUN LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

If a player is presented with an environment that they do not like, or one in which they feel uncomfortable, the learning experience will become tedious and hence more difficult. The student needs to be “fungaged” (Having fun whilst being fully engaged in the activity).

The more fungaged the learner is, the more they are likely to invest in their learning, and hence the easier it is to teach.

02 QUESTIONS AND DELAYED UNDERSTANDING

Players should be challenged and questioned in order to allow them to start thinking. The more a player thinks the more they will understand the game.

Even if players don’t immediately know the answer to a specific question, the experience is not lost. There is a part of the brain that never switches off.

Have you ever been lying in bed or standing in the shower and the answer to a previously posed question or challenge seems to appear from nowhere; or you get an idea and say to yourself ‘Wow where did that come from?’

This “unconscious” problem solving part of your brain never switches off, thus the more effective or penetrating questions asked, or challenges presented, the more you can stimulate the player’s brain.

03 PROVIDE TESTS, CHALLENGES AND HARDSHIPS

It’s no good just thinking, talking and understanding how something works if you never put this new found knowledge into practice. The more players DO, the greater their chance of success will be.

They will also get a greater sense of fulfillment, pride and motivation if encouraged to solve a problem themselves rather than being presented with the answer or solution.

It is important however to balance the amount of success and failure in the experience since each player is different, and failure tolerance levels will inevitably vary.

04 PROVIDE AN INTERNAL SUPPORTIVE SYSTEM

Players have to be able to trust players and coaches around them, and be absolutely confident in the knowledge that they “have their back”. Failure in some form is inevitable in a training/coaching environment, and is also valuable as part of the learning cycle.

It requires players to speak, question and challenge, but it is important that this opportunity is presented without the fear of players getting “shut down”. The player has to be comfortable enough with the support system that they can take calculated risk without fear.


LET THE GAME BE THE TEACHER

This approach allows players to learn implicitly whist also having fun. Putting players through drill-based sessions with explicit instructions will slow down learning and minimize motivation of players.

Through games-based practices, players learn to find solutions for themselves and from each other rather than from coaches. They are empowered to make decisions for themselves and become self-reliant as a team.

By using the game as the teacher, decisions become automatic rather than robotic promoting creativity and flair. The players will see themselves progress and grow with an accompanying increased motivation and player investment.

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