Tips on what not to tell your players

"You've got to get your first tackle in early, even if it's late,"  so said Ray Gravell, Welsh centre of the 1970s. Though we can smile about what Gravell said, there is a danger that we say the wrong thing at the wrong time to our players. Here are some "wise words" that should be avoided.

"My grandmother can do better than that!"

A derogatory comparison merely indicates the coach's exasperation and does not positively encourage the player. Sarcasm rarely motivates players. It is right sometimes to tell a player where they have gone wrong, but it should be done with an upbeat note at the end.

"Dan Carter would never do that."

Dan Carter is a paid professional who works full time, playing preofessional rugby at the elite level. There is always a danger that players will see that they are never going to be like a Carter, either in terms of skill or dedication. Choose comparisons carefully.

"The next player to give away a penalty is going to be substituted."

Empty threats cause a loss of authority. It is unlikely the coach or captain who uttered these words will be able to carry out this threat if there is not a suitable substitute.

Choose warning words that mean something to players and can be carried through. In the final analysis there must a realisation that the team will be let down by errors of judgement and not just an individual.

"This is the big one, the one we have got to win!"

Does the coach think the players don't know this? Words like these are likely to make players more nervous, increase anxiety and make them not be able to express themselves in the way they have before.

"Don't miss the first tackle, it's the most crucial one!"

Say the centre who is caught out by a clever switch misses his man at the first attempt. What now? The player is distraught because he missed his first, the most crucial, tackle. What do you say as the coach?

It's much better to say "make the tackle" rather than "don't miss the tackle".

"Where were the back row?"

The back row (or the centres or another group of players) were probably making haste to the situation after recovering from the previous breakdown. Everyone should be supporting the ball carrier or making tackles, not just some superhuman back row player.

There is also some onus on the ball carrier to find support. If he chooses to run away from support, then he has to make every effort to retain possession until the support does arrive. As a ball carrier, I used to like the comforting words of Pete Vaughan, the former Blackheath and Esher number 8. "Be strong" he'd growl as he made his way towards me across the pitch. And if I was, then we would invariably recover the ball.

Click here to read more about talking to players so they understand.

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.

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