EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

7 ways to work on individual skills with large groups of players

If you find yourself coaching a large group of players and you are on your own, you can still develop skills as part of the session.

  • Keep the blocks of action long and the breaks for feedback very short
  • Once you feel you’ve completed the activity, move on, even if you are doing the same skill in a different way
  • Try to speak, rather shout, so you seem in control
  • Personalise the feedback by using names

1 INTENSITY

In my experience, players don’t really care if there is one coach or ten as long as they enjoy the session and take something from it. A simple way to make a session better is to make sure that there aren’t too many “dead spots”, in other words, stoppages.

Of course you will need to stop the session to move the activity along or to make coaching points about repeated group errors. Try not to make these intermissions too frequent or worse still too long. It’s disenchanting to hold things up just as the players were getting into the activity.

2 MOVE IT ALONG

Naturally, it is important that the players take on board the lessons you wish to give them but just as importantly, don’t labour the activity. If they’ve seen point of the activity, move to another activity.

The players can go on to meet a new challenge with vigour but very often not realise you are giving them another opportunity to learn the same skill.

3 REPETITIONS

Players need chances to practise their skills as much as they can. This highlights the need for every player to have a ball go through his or her hands multiple times or have to be a participant over and over again.

Organise the exercises so the players are doing more than they are watching. For example, divide into more work stations.

4 MULTIPLE WORK AREAS

By reducing the numbers in each area, it allows the players to work at an intense pace in close proximity to each other.

Work in smaller areas than normal as well. This allows you to keep more players in front of you and not spread across the entire playing surface. Ideally, keep the areas separated by at least a couple of metres.

5 BE IN TWO PLACES AT ONCE

This is not as hard as you might think. If you are standing watching a particular group, step around so you are looking at another groups work.

Critiquing them from a distance gives the impression you are an all-seeing “Jedi” coach.

6 DON’T GENERALISE, PERSONALISE

Being personal is key to working with a large group. Mention as many names as you can, as often as you can in your praise or critiques. In large groups, players individual efforts can seem lost.

You can make a group point by being specific. For example: “Well done on the body height in that exercise. Doug and Sam in particular got their shoulders under their opponents.”

7 KEEP CALM

Just because it’s a large group, shouting the entire time make you look like a schoolteacher that has lost control of the class. You will have to shout at certain points to gather in the group.

However, using an “inside voice” which speaks to a group within a group can occasionally help create a better learning environment when used to make key points.

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