Behaviour tips for better sessions

Improve your training sessions with behaviour ideas from top teachers. Jade Pearce, author of What Every Teacher Needs to Know and Dan Cottrell show you how in a rugby context.

Doug Lemov, writing in Teach Like a Champion 3.0, says: “The purpose of [preventative and positive classroom behaviour management] techniques is not so much to forestall negative behaviour as it is to socialise positive and productive behaviours that help young people thrive in all the settings of their lives.”

We aren’t aiming for a rigid, regimented coaching atmosphere at a rugby training session. We want the players to enjoy their sport and come back next week. For the youngest players, they will be silly, not listen much of the time and be off-task.

However, you still want to give them a positive rugby experience to provide them with opportunities to learn the sport. You also want to instil some of the positive behaviours that rugby displays that they can take into other parts of their lives.


Threshold means the entrance and the limit.

If you can, meet each player before the start of the session and greet them positively.

Either individually or as a group, remind them of the group’s expectations for behaviour.

Don’t use the word behaviour. Instead, you could say: “Remember we said that we want to respect each other, so we agree to listen when someone else is talking, and, when the whistle goes, to stop and put the ball on the ground”.


Usually, we explain exactly how you want the players to complete a task.

However, front-load any specific behavioural instructions at the start of the wider instruction.

For example:

>  “By putting your hand up, without calling out, can anyone tell me how to catch a high ball?”

> ”In silence, on your own, think about why we want to bend at the hips in the tackle. Now, turn to the player next to you to share your ideas.”


Make instructions very specific and precise, including clear time limits. Give the instructions once, repeat and ask the players to repeat the instructions back to you. Ask if there is anyone who is still not clear about the task.


Making it obvious that you are looking around the training area. Deliberately move your head around, raise your chin, swivel your head, stand on tip toes – make it clear you are scanning.

You want the players to be able to self-organise, like they would on the pitch, without your instructions being repeated.

For example, you have set up a game, split the teams and want to play. You might say: “Blue team, you start with the ball.” Then you shut up, stand back and be seen looking.

Smile, nod and use non-verbal interventions if needed, like pointing or waving.


Normalise the positives, making normal the expected behaviour – it needs to be heard constantly. This is instead of addressing those players that have not followed instructions.


> “Sam and Luca are already in the right positions and shapes – brilliant.”

> “I’m already hearing some outstanding answers.”

> “70% of the team have started already, excellent, now 90%….”

> “…5, 4, I can see John putting his ball down, 3, I can see Simon looking at me now, 2, 1”.

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