EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

Tackling: the final piece of the jigsaw

Some players can run like the wind, pass beautifully and score a hatful of tries. But even though they have all the skills, they just won’t tackle. Here’s how to make them the complete player…

CHANGING THE CANVAS

The best runners often measure their game by their time on the ball, defenders beaten and tries scored. They’ll feel they’ve had a good game if they’ve ticked those boxes, and a big zero in the tackle column isn’t important.

First, don’t diminish their achievements in what they excel at. Instead, change their outlook on the game. Ask them where they could improve. Remind them that the game is split into attack and defence. Challenge them to explain what they do when the opposition have the ball.

Then, after every game or at half time, ask for feedback. What did they do well in attack? What did they do well in defence? What can they do to improve in both areas? Focus entirely on their positives in defence (see the next point).

PUT TACKLE GAINS FIRST

Tackle success isn’t a clear-cut outcome. Even at elite level, players are measured not just on missed tackles but on tackle attempts and tackle outcomes, whether positive, neutral or negative.

Often youngsters don’t just miss tackles, they don’t even get into position to make the tackle in the first place. A good runner should have the talent to get into position, so praise him first on his efforts to be there to make a tackle.

Then praise him on the positive effort he makes to tackle, even if the outcome is a missed tackle. Better to be bumped off than never even make contact.

If in a game he scores three tries and makes three tackle attempts, then you know where your praise will be focused.

SAVE PRAISE FOR EFFORT

A talented player might say that his tries or attacking prowess are winning you games. That might be true – but that isn’t improving him as an all-round player. Plus, defence also wins matches. Praise defensive effort over try-scoring exploits.

Much of the scientific research into child sports development shows that it’s better to praise effort than achievement. Avoid empty praise – too many “well dones” become meaningless. Be specific and recognise where the player has improved his attitude and application.

PRACTICAL OUTCOMES

Every skill relies on good technique being reinforced. It should be put under pressure to see if it’s being executed properly. It takes repetitive training to mould the technique. But we still want to motivate the player to improve and the three ideas outlined above will help your more athletic players. Use my Grapple tackle activity to strengthen your players’ grip in the tackle, increasing their chances of bringing down the carrier.

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