How best to communicate with your players during training
When you are speaking to the players during the sessions, you will be doing one of the following:
Praising their performance.
Providing feedback on where they can improve.
Challenging them to engage, through questions.
Praise is far more powerful than criticism, because players will respond more if they what they doing well.
The best praise:
Says the player’s name and says what was good.
Depending on the moment, you might add further, perhaps saying why it was good, or even asking them.
Praise in your first sessions
In your first session with the players, keep it simple. Focus on:
Simple skills or techniques done well.
Practise some phrases beforehand, so you don’t end up giving empty phrases.
Some good examples of praise are: “Paul, I can see you really worked hard at that game”, or “Simon, that was very good catching – you kept the ball away from your body”.
Feedback is rarely positive. It tends to suggest changes, which can sound negative.
In your first few sessions, keep suggestions on improvements to a minimum. The only advice you might be given will be on the rules of a game, not on how to improve.
Use praise to encourage players when they are doing something well. Say it loud enough for other players to hear so that they might copy them.
As you become more confident in your coaching, you will use questions to challenge and engage players.
In your first few sessions, you might ask the following questions:
How can we improve our catching?
What is the hardest part of that game? What could you do differently?
Don’t ask tactical questions. Just give them a chance to add their thoughts.
When you ask a question, wait a few moments. Don’t just anyone shout out the answer. Look for hands up. Choose someone different every time.
Silence is golden
Watch, listen, reflect, talk. So, talk for less than a quarter of the session.
When you gather the players in for a chat, try to avoid talking for more than 30 seconds. You won’t achieve that! Yet, feel that sense of short time and then get on.
When you speak to players:
Get onto their level. So bend down for young players.
Speak facing the sun.
Face them away from distractions.
About Dan Cottrell
Dan is a practising RFU Level 3 coach and coach educator. He coaches with the Bristol Bears DPP programme, is the assistant coach with University of Bristol Women's team and is a coach mentor for Broad Plain RFC mini and juniors section.
He was Head Coach of Swansea Schools U15 and has previously held coaching roles with the Young Ospreys Academy and as Assistant Coach with the Wales Women's Team for the 2010 World Cup.
He was director of rugby for Cranleigh School, Surrey. Previously he played rugby for Bath and Bristol.
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