Trigger words

Using triggers in your coaching may seem new and novel but you have probably been using trigger words or phrases without realising it. Here’s why they help…

“Follow through to the target

What are triggers?

Triggers are words or phrases that might change the player’s behaviour from performing a technique poorly to focusing on the technique and what he has to do to perform it correctly. It can be used in a drill, skill or whatever activity you are coaching. They are a great tool you can use especially with Minis who often get distracted and lose focus.

Why use them?

Trigger words or phrases are used in rugby for a number of reasons especially to develop the four C’s: Concentration, confidence, commitment and control.

All four areas complement each other. Rugby games and training are stop/start and players can lose concentration which then affects the other three Cs, so this is where you can use trigger words/phrases.

You only have the players for a limited time so anything that helps make the most of your sessions and saves time, focuses attention quickly and can then be used in a game is a great tool to have. It is also much better if the players have an input into the trigger words/phrases as they will remember them better and use them more on the pitch with teammates.

Common distractions

  • The weather
  • Anxiety
  • Errors
  • Fatigue
  • Boredom
  • Coaches
  • Teammates
  • Spectators
  • Opposition

To overcome these you can use some simple trigger words/phrases: “Relax” is a common trigger word to use when a player or players are too tense or nervous. Make the players close their eyes and think of a skill they are good at. This will calm them down and re-focus their minds.

You can come up with your own triggers to overcome a variety of situations but in rugby terms here are a few to help you get started.

  1. Stay low – Players know that to win the contact area the key is to stay low in a good body position.
  2. Target – All passes must be accurate and targeted to the receiver’s hands.
  3. Match speed – All activity is done at the speed expected in a match.
  4. Shoulder, arms, legs – Tackling an opponent, shoulder hits first followed by arms squeezing legs together and finished with a leg drive.
  5. Breathe – Good for a hooker before he throws the ball in or a goal kicker before kicking.
  6. Squeeze – Very common for scrums to pull everything together.
  7. Present – An obvious one for the tackled player to ensure he is presenting the ball back to his team.
  8. Eyes open in the tackle OR ear tight to the shorts – Good focus points for the tackle.
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