Five top tips on how to coach one-to-one

Personal coaching can really grow a player – but only if you give them the right environment in which to learn and improve. Embrace these five top tips to help bring out the best in each player.

ONE: Make it personal

Working with a player one-to-one means you can concentrate on their individual needs. But first, you must work out what those needs are.

To know them better, you have to understand the player’s motivations to play rugby and desire to improve. So ask them about their goals. Then discover what they feel comfortable working on.

From there, you can tailor your session to suit their needs. You can help guide them to seek more challenges, but you can’t force them to want more.

Your goals need to be in line with theirs. You can suggest ideas that stretch them, but it’s the player who needs to confirm their own targets.

TWO: Understand when to inject energy

One-to-one sessions need different sorts of energy to keep the player engaged and motivated to learn. So try a traffic light approach to keep the session varied:

Red light for static work – explanations, questioning, and technical feedback

Amber light for repetitious work – replicating skills, testing out techniques

Green light for game-like training – adding pressure through fatigue, speed, time or space

THREE: Grow together

The All Blacks have a saying: “If you’re not growing anywhere, you’re not going anywhere”. The player needs to improve or learn how to improve from every session.

It also applies to you as the coach. What have you learned from the session? And what could you improve upon next time?

For instance, consider the language you used, the amount of time you spent talking, the technical feedback you gave the player, the ways you could elicit a different response. Dave Alred, one of the world’s best sports coaches, says he changes the way he operates year on year, based on what he learns from coaching different athletes.

FOUR: Create the excitement to practise

Research shows that the real improvements happen after your training. That’s in the time when the player goes away and does three things:

  1. He reflects on the coaching, taking in the key points and understanding how they work well for him.
  2. He practises what he’s learned.
  3. He puts the skill into a real game.

Your role is to create the excitement to want to reflect, practise and try out the skills. It gives the player the confidence to do it. Your energy and belief will be crucial.

FIVE: Competition

One-to-one training isn’t just about repetitions. Players love to test themselves in a competitive manner. Think of how you can add pressure through time trials or points scoring. It might be beating last week’s scores, or reaching a target in this session.

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