How to keep close to the action when coaching rugby

Observation during practice is a key component of the coaching process. However, watching more than 15 players at one time can be challenging, especially if you want to give quick and personal feedback to individuals or small groups.

Having a circular exercise area can help and means you are the centre of the action.

Mark out two large circles, one inside the other, with groups of players working in towards the centre and then back out again.

Depending on the numbers of players and size of the groups, the inner circle can be up to 10m in diameter, and the outer circle as large as you need. Place a cone as a start and end point for each group and don’t allow players to finish inside the circle.

Demonstrations and corrective action can take place inside the inner circle, ensuring you have an audience surrounding you, rather than having to gather players from the ends of a line.

The groups can then return to the exercises quickly because they won’t have moved far from their original positions.

Coaching observation

You stay inside the inner circle and move around to each cone to add feedback or comments. Direct comments from the side of the group and avoid facing directly outwards. This allows you a wider viewing arc.

Inevitably you won’t be able to see all the groups performing at once. However, you can quickly move to a poor performing group if necessary due to your central position.

This type of configuration works well if you have a coaching team. The lead coach of the exercise works from the middle, since he is the centre of attention.

He can quickly stop and start the exercise and add feedback to the whole or individual groups by moving only a few paces. The other coaches circle the outside, adding encouragement and thoughts, without reducing the overall role of the lead coach.

Advantages of circles

  • The lead coach is the centre of attention. He has better control of the technical direction and tempo of the exercise.
  • Demonstrations can be set up quickly in the middle of the circle so everyone can see.
  • The lead coach can move quickly to different stations to feedback.
  • All the players can see each other, aiding learning through observation.
  • A new style of completing repetitive tasks adds freshness and is thus motivational.

Disadvantages of circles

  • If there is only one coach, he will have his back to some of the players some of the time.
  • You cannot use exercises that require lateral passing. Circles are better for contact, offloading, ground ball work and footwork exercises.
  • Players have to aim for a defined point rather than “space”.

This article is from International Rugby Coaching.

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