Be patient – and heed your own advice

Last week, I accidentally did something good. And then I realised that I should have been doing it from the start.

I had set up an exercise which was based on an activity my son had suggested. I was so concerned with making the activity work, I became overly focused on one aspect. By the way, that was rolling a large die! I will explain this exercise in detail in next week’s issue.

Let me make it clear that I’m not congratulating myself for the outcome. I’m actually really frustrated. Frustrated because good things were happening and I wasn’t aware of them.

The activity was very competitive. The die roll indicated which defenders would run out and at least one of those defenders had a special power which would effectively kill off the attack immediately.

Initially, the special power didn’t come into play because the attackers were failing to win a 4 v 1. This is when I wasn’t observing carefully. I was so intent on running the exercise I failed to notice that the attackers were huddling together to work out their solutions.

Gradually, they improved. I did throw a couple of questions at the attackers as they moved through and swapped over roles. Yet, it was the players who were figuring out the challenge most of time, unprompted by me.

England players chatting between themselves. Key communication moments that we need to encourage.

They began to get better. Why? Because I had given them the space to think for themselves. I wasn’t paying them any attention. In essence, this is what I did well, but accidently. I had let the players get on with it. They had some clear expectations and ways to “win” the exercise. They didn’t need my input.

In the future, I’m going to adjust my approach to “challenge activities”. I will purposely concentrate on just one side of the challenge. This group, either the attack or defence, will be fully resourced with questions, nudges, ideas and encouragement. The other side…well, they will get nothing. Instead, they will get time to gather and think.

The key is that they won’t know I’ve purposely given them the time. They will just see and hear me talking to the other group.

What made this discovery even more interesting was that after the session, the coaching group were chatting about communication between the players. I suggest this question: Are we just concerned with calling around the ball and in defence? I think we need to spend as much time listening out for the chat between plays. For example, what sort of talk can we hear where the players are looking at ways to break down defences or cut out the opposition’s better players.

The key is to set up scenarios which matter to the players. Then step back. I’m looking forward to trying this out more next week.

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