EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

Tournament survival guide

Whether it’s a sevens event for adults or a festival of mini rugby, tournament days can be trying experiences unless you’re well prepared. Here are six tips for getting through it without mishap…

1 SET THE SCENE AND STANDARDS

When you arrive at the tournament, players can often quickly disappear off in every direction. Before they do, set out your rules for the day.

If you’re with children, outline the rules in front of their parents. This reduces the need to repeat yourself over the day.

2 LOOK AFTER YOURSELF

Many coaches spend the day chasing after everyone else, so forget to do a couple of key things: eat and drink.

Keep yourself hydrated before you arrive and as the day goes on. You can have tea and coffee, but drink water in equal amounts. As for that can of beer – leave it as a reward for the end of the day!

This is especially important if coaching youngsters, because you need to be switched on and energised to look after an increasingly tired and emotional group of players. And that’s on top of interacting with parents, officials and the opposition.

3 DECIDE ON MEETING TIMES

Players should be “off their feet” for as much time as possible. You can’t do a 20-minute warm-up for every game because if you do, you’ll end up playing the equivalent of two tournaments.

Meet 20 minutes before the start of every game. Talk through the team selection and options. Outline the game plan and then, 10 minutes before kick-off, go through your routines.

If you meet 20 minutes before a game only to find it’s delayed (a fairly common occurrence at tournaments), then check times again and start the warm-up halfway through the first half of the preceding game.

4 DRINK EARLY, EAT LIGHT

On the journey to the tournament and during the first part of the day, players should be taking on fluids regularly. It’s too late if they’re taking their first drink in the warm-up.

Even a small loss of body weight due to dehydration will affect performance. So straight after the game, they should be drinking and snacking. This is a crucial element of body management for the day and should be set in stone.

Avoid fizzy drinks, burgers, chips and crisps. Better to have jam sandwiches, fruit and chocolate-covered biscuits, along with bottles of squash or water.

5 SPECIAL RULES FOR KIDS

When coaching children, you’ll coach the team from the warm-up to the pitch. At all other times, the players are the parents’ responsibility.

Don’t let the children find distractions. Encourage parents to bring hand-held games for players to sit and play with.

Ask a parent to play a game that has the players sitting down, such as charades or joke telling. Even 15 minutes of this is better than a full-on game of wrestling somewhere in a mud patch.

6 TAKE ONE GAME AT A TIME

A common mistake is to “target” particular games and mentally prepare accordingly. The best teams play in the present. Their focus is on beating the side in front of them, no matter who it is.

High try targets can be demotivating if nothing happens in the first five minutes. The build-up should be on executing skills accurately under pressure.

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