EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

9 ways to train with a flat ball

Ignore the grumbles of your players – an under-inflated ball can have a number of training benefits. So before you next pump the balls up, consider using a flat ball to enhance your team’s skills…

1  CATCHING

A softer ball is easier to catch than a hard ball, so use it over short distances for less accomplished catchers. Don’t let out too much air for this.

Over longer distances, the flight of a flat ball isn’t as steady as a pumped-up ball. A very flat ball can be particularly difficult to read through the air and so provides an interesting challenge.

2  SHORT PASSING

You can’t pass a semi-flat ball as far as a normal ball. In practice games where you want players to avoid using miss passes but instead concentrate on short, accurate passes, a flat ball is a natural barrier.

I’ve used it a number of times in games of touch (with complaints, of course), but have found that players quickly adjust their play.

3  KICKING INTRODUCTION

We don’t often allow kicking in practices, especially in semi-opposed or touch games. This is partly because of the limited space available or the numbers in each team.

You achieve less distance when kicking a flat ball, so it’s an excellent way of introducing this skill with limited outcomes in terms of distance.

4  RIPPING AND TUGGING

Get two players to hold a flat ball at each end and then pull – it helps them improve their grip strength. You can also get players to wrestle a flat ball from another player.

It’s far harder to rip out a flat ball than a normal ball, so players have to work on ingenious solutions to win the contest.

5  BALANCING

Old flat balls are useful for players to stand on as they perform simple handling drills. It’s a terrific balance exercise which helps players work their core muscles.

6  UNDER ARMS

I’m always seeking ways to disadvantage players in practices, especially when they’re handling. It increases the need for good technique to perform accurate passes.

So have players carry a flat ball wedged between their upper arm and body as they’re passing. It forces them to use their wrist and elbows more effectively.

Spin passing with a flat ball against the side of the body from which the pass is going (that is, on the player’s left side if he’s passing right to left) allows the dominant arm and thus hand to work the ball. See how you can improve the weaker hand of a spin pass with this method.

7  CONDITIONING AID

A wet flat ball is often a heavy flat ball. This can be used to help strengthen the wrists or just carried as a further weight when running to aid conditioning.

8  CONTRASTS

Players can get lazy with the best training balls, so throw in some flat balls with the normal ones.

The odd flat ball, with its different shape and weight, provides enough of a contrast to keep them thinking without devaluing the rugby aspects of the drill.

9  THE ONE-HAND GAME

Since a flat ball should be easier to grip, try playing the one-hand game. It’s actually any rugby-related game that has passing in it – such as touch or rugby netball – except that players can only catch and pass with one hand.

Use it as a warm-up whilst you pump up the other flat balls.

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