A book review of Ulitmate Crush: Waseda University Rugby, Leadership and Building the Strongest Winning Team in Japan Katsuyuki Kiyomiya translated by Ian Ruxton. The Japanese love slogans. Ultimate Crush, which was coined for the Waseda University rugby team, translates differently according to the dialect used*, but the core meaning of “overwhelming victory” is clear. MORE
Planning for your next rugby season
1. Fitness tips
Build the fitness programmes that will allow your players to come back fitter next season.
- End the season fitter, giving them a better base for the summer.
- Set out drill targets for the end of the season as a bench mark for the start of next season, e.g. 400m times
(or two laps of the pitch) or press ups in a minute.
Discuss realistic fitness programmes. For some sides, a day-by-day programme of drills will be possible, with players happy to maintain a high level of fitness over the summer break. However for many, it is simply a case of trying to encourage the players to actually do some basic fitness drills. This is where a clear and simple plan will work better than one that expects too much.
2. Develop new drills
Pre season is normally too short a time to provide much opportunity for a great deal of experimentation so seize the moment to try something new now.
The last month or so of the season means a chance to experiment with new rugby drills. If the drill is not working then there is not much lost since more familiar, comfortable drills can easily be returned to. The new drills can then be dusted off for the new season, with players and coaches alike more aware of the strengths and weaknesses.
3. Build patterns
As with developing new drills, the end of the season can be a chance to try a new pattern of play. It could even be a chance to reflect on the past season as a whole and work out what your best pattern of play is.
Some seasons start with a plan to play in a certain way which then changes as personal circumstances dictate otherwise. New or modified patterns need discussion. Sit down with the players to identify what pattern you think you play. Set out the team's strengths and weakness, and build the pattern around these, playing to your strengths and ironing out your weaknesses.
4. Try new combinations
With the end of the season coming to a close, some teams will find themselves in a comfort zone, neither threatening to go up a league or in danger of going down. This is an ideal time to try players or groups of players in slightly different positions, such as by swapping the props, playing a centre as a flanker, switiching the full back to fly half.
In this way, you will be making an early investment in next season's skills, looking to widen the players' experience and maybe find a new answer. It also provides you with greater flexibility in the event of injuries, loss of form and the like.
This article is taken from the Better Rugby Coaching e-newsletter. Click here to sign up and get free rugby drills and skills twice a week.
5. Plan player development
When the season comes to an end, players and coaches take a well-earned rest before the start of the next season. Then when the season starts again, there seems so little time to develop a player before the first game. Instead, identify the skills the player needs to work on, such as speed, passing or kicking, before the end of the season, setting targets for the next season.
6. Recruit and retain
Whether we like it or not, recruitment plays an important part in the success of any club. Some players will be looking at their future at any club at this stage of the season. Some will seek higher honours, so it pays to put feelers out in more junior clubs. Other players might want to downsize, maybe moving to a less rigorous rugby atmosphere.
The system works both ways. You might be aware of players who are thinking of leaving your own club, but do you know the intention of all your players for next season?
7. Organise coaching notes
While things are still relatively fresh in your memory, this is the moment to file any coaching notes you have made during the season. You might keep a coaching diary of every session. A scrapbook or a ring binder with poly pockets are useful ways of retaining even the scrappiest piece of paper.
8. Audit of equipment (and buy new stuff)
Before your training equipment is consigned to the storage area to gather dust, have a good look at what needs repairing or replacing, because it could be too late when you return to preseason. This is a good time to buy new equipment anyway, because many clubs will not be looking to spend their budgets until the start of the next season.