EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

Multi-skill your kickers

Even without a specialised kicking coach, it is essential you spend more time on this area of the game. Not only does this improve kicking skills but allows the game to flow better and move forward.

Kicking is a core skill and a major tactical aspect of the game. I have spent a long time researching this skill. After talking to several top kicking coaches, I’ve come to the conclusion that, 1. we don’t spend enough time kicking out of hand and, 2. when we do, it is not focused enough.

PSYCHOLOGICAL DEMANDS

Because of the nature of the open skill, and the (usual) importance of kicking to the game, the psychological demands on the kicker are high. The message of consistent practice is paramount so that the kicker does not have to think about the various components of the kick. It is vital that the inner self is quiet and the action is second nature for the player.

There does not seem to be much rhyme or reason to kickers not “timing” the ball or having “an off day” when they are generally technically proficient. So mental attitude and psychology must play a large part in successful kicks.

In our practices we must therefore allow this to happen.

By questioning players we should be able to draw from them how they felt. By doing this they can then make their own intrinsic feedback, understanding the mechanics that are important to them.

It is vital that each player has a strong inner self (how they feel inside) due to the multi faceted nature of kicking. It requires mental strength, a belief in the processes and outcome and an ability to work under pressure when these factors might be at their weakest.

There are various ways to create disturbances to the norm, to help the player concentrate on their inner self:

Noise distractions – either close up or ground tannoy! This can also be either abusive or supportive.

Time pressure – kicking under time pressures can drastically hinder technique. Can players overcome this and hit the same consistency with external demands?

Distraction techniques – walking in front of the kicker or throwing objects and balls for instance at them. What happens to technique?

PRACTICE TECHNIQUES

Most kicking sessions take the form of “channel” kicking down increasingly narrowing channels. Though there is a place for this, coaches can possibly be more inventive.

In technical sessions, we can also incorporate some levels of decision making, kick adaptations and moving targets and scenarios to be more game realistic.

By varying the length and direction of where to kick, especially if we can increase pressure, we can replicate the demands physiologically and mentally on the kickers more realistically to a real game.

Incorporating “scanning” type work into the practice also has had huge benefits to my kickers. This enable them to look with a wider field of vision and see the whole picture better and earlier.

TRAINING GAMES FOR KICKING

Training games replicate some of the technical and mental demands on the kickers to perform accurately under pressure.

ONE STEP, THREE STEPS TARGETS

A kicker is passed the ball and either uses a one step or three step kick towards coloured cones indicated by the coach. In this case: “GREEN”.

PROGRESSIONS

You can put a player on cones and get them to signal where to kick, either by lifting a coloured flag or calling for the ball. The emphasis is on getting the kicker to scan early and work out the type of kick required.

  • Put in defenders to pressure kick.
  • Put in a defender to charge down kick.
  • Make the kicker beat the defender first.

KICKING TO A MOVING TARGET

A player runs towards a cone and the kicker has to land the ball on the cone to coincide with the player’s arrival.

PROGRESSIONS

You can also determine whether the kick has to go straight to hand or must first strike the ground, again, varying which type of kick is required.

  • Add time pressure on release time of the pass to the kicker once the attacker has started run.
  • Add chasing defenders.
  • Use the weaker foot.

WHAT NEXT?

Throughout my research and interest in kicking over the last few years, I firmly believe that although there are a few highly skilled kicking coaches, they are few and far between. Apart from this elite level work, the surface is barely scratched in the breadth and depth of knowledge in the subject. The lack of biomechanical data and injury intervention policies is rife and we are in danger of recurrent injuries to players purely because of this lack of knowledge.

Being inventive and maximising potential is almost impossible due to the lack of allocated time in practice. There is huge onus on the individual to practice on their own to work on technique, however better quality drills and practices can be designed to provoke debate and allow the mental and tactical side of the game to be explored.

The next step must be the use of new technology and biomechanics for injury prevention, feedback and working towards improved techniques. We have made huge strides in many aspects of the game in the last few years. Each season, a new technique is “discovered” or reinvented at the breakdown, tackle area, or lineout, but little work is done on kicking.

I am a huge advocate for the handling game, but understand the importance of the kicking game to make this happen. To allow the game to go forwards in all its facets, our kickers must be multi skilled in all technical and tactical aspects of the skill.

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