Rugby coaching tips to help you deal with disruptive players

Avoid long lines

The unwritten “law of children queuing” says that with more than three players in a line, even the most well-behaved youngster starts to mess around.

For a more disruptive child, this can lead to pushing, shoving and even bullying. This is hard to control when you’re coaching further up the field watching the action. Instead, have more than one starting point, so the queues are shorter.

Alternatively, have players sit down on the side when a rugby drill is completed, before returning to the queue. Ideally though, the level of activity should be such that queues rarely form.

Big groups, short chats

When talking to a big group, there is a danger of disruption due to the close proximity of players. The disruptive child will often be at the back. Sit them all down, and bring the worst offenders to the front.

Watch out for the players who wander behind you when you are talking. Any group situation must be on your terms. With big groups, anything more than a one-minute chat can be an ideal breeding ground for a disruptive player.

Organisation, action and fun

A well-organised rugby coaching session, which means a lot of activity for the players, will reduce the opportunity for disruption.

Too many drills, too little time for games will mean the players get bored. And the greater the action, running around, the more likely that players will become tired. A physically tired player will be less likely to muck around – they will be recovering!

Avoid negative feedback

Instead of criticism, use the “feedback” sandwich instead. Combining positive feedback with corrective feedback will make a player think about the drill itself, rather than feeling the focus is on his or her behaviour.

If a player can repeat back the instructions, this shows that they understand. The worse thing you can do is use a phrase like “Well, if you had been listening and not mucking around… “.

A better approach would be to say: “Good weight on the pass, Johnny, and try to improve your support play by keeping close to the first ball carrier” – this is to a player who was chatting in the line, and didn’t keep up.

Excluding a player

If you have tried all the tactics to keep a player in the practice and this hasn’t worked, send him away for a short space of time to “cool down”. This should never be an empty threat and be adopted only as a last resort.

It should be used very sparingly and if a child has to repeatedly sit out, then you’re in a situation that goes beyond normal practice management. In this case refer to the club policy.

The “sit out” should take place away from the other players’ view as much as possible, away from equipment, and in a place where you can see them.

Bring them back with a quick word from you (which should look at the positives), with a response from them to indicate they understand. Then on with the practice, a line drawn under the incident.

Possible causes of disruptive behaviour

  • Boredom – the drills and training offer no challenge.
  • Challenged – there are learning difficulties that need to be addressed sensitively.
  • Influenced – the player can be easily goaded or wound up by others.
  • Tired and hungry – simply not had enough sleep or eaten properly.

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