Help: U16s who are like scared kittens


I coach boys ages 14-18, they have the skills and ability…but so often they play like scared kittens. How can I build fire and desire in my players?



We cannot ignore the fact that players need controlled aggression.

This can be translated into:

• Urgency • Focus • Want

• Commitment • Lack of fear

To develop these areas, your training regime needs to encompass these elements without them being the focus. One great way is to have games where teams are rewarded for showing these elements. Of course, that would be just like the real game.

Therefore, use small-sided games which replicate the main game.

Examples of rewarding play to look for

  • Going forward in contact
  • Cross the gain-line after contact
  • Make tackles, which means coming forward to tackle

An example of a small-sided game that promotes this:

Four team gauntlet

  1. Play with teams of four or five.
  2. Set up a 40m long, 15m wide pitch. One team attacks. The other teams line up on three lines, one 10m from the start of the pitch, the second 20m back, and the third 30m back.
  3. The attacking team aim to break over each line. The ball starts on halfway along the side of the box. That attacker can either pick and pass, or pick and run with the ball. As soon as they touch the ball, the defending group for that box can come forward.
  4. If the attack cross the line with the ball carrier on their feet and not held, they score a point.
  5. If they cross the line but the ball carrier is held in a maul or is off their feet, they are allowed to restart in the next box.
  6. If they fail to cross the line, their go finishes.
  7. Each restart is halfway along the side of the new box.
  8. Once the attackers’ attempt is over, the groups cycle around. Note the way we want to swap around. The back group of defenders will become the attackers. The middle group goes to the back, the front group goes to the middle and the attacking group that have just finished become the front defenders. This should give the new attacking group an edge to start with.

The game promotes all the principles from above while being intense and pressurised.

Adjust the widths to suit your players. The lengths should remain the same, because it gives the attack enough space to develop while encouraging the defenders to come forward. The extra space behind the last group of defenders makes the attackers think they need to get beyond the “gain-line” though they only need to cross the 30m line, not the 40m line.


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