Your man, my man
in Defence, Rucking & Mauling, Rugby drills
Use this simple defence activity to help defenders work in pairs, while giving one defender more responsibility than the other. MORE
EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES
How far should you go in developing better evasion skills by setting up footwork exercises without defenders? Is it better to let them play and discover?
Some of the science behind skill acquisition is head-spinning. With all the talk of affordances, ecological dynamics and perception-action coupling, sometimes we want a simple answer on what works and what doesn’t.
In this context, with evasive skills, I will think mainly about avoiding contact for the ball carrier. They can use side steps, swerves, changes of pace, spins or just simply changes of angle. Their choice of technique depends on their strengths and the defensive situation they face.
Our challenge is to give players evasive tools and continue to sharpen these tools. Sharpening the tools allows the players to choose the right tool for the right moment. In some cases, there’s more than one tool which might work.
There is a spectrum of thoughts on how you then sharpen evasive skills. At one end of the scale, you will have expert coaches who will start with the mechanics of each movement pattern, building up the pace before putting these techniques into game-related scenarios.
This approach may involve ladder work, dodging through poles or racing through tackle tube slaloms. The players will have plenty of chances to try out the movements. Then they can put them into practice against defenders in the next stage.
At the other end of the spectrum, the process will start against a defender who will move. Through the constraints of the exercise or the game, the players will explore and discover ways to beat the defender. The coach may suggest ideas, ask questions on what went well or get players to watch teammates.
Most of us will probably use a combination of both, either drills, then game or game, then drills, then the game.
In my experience of talking to top skills coaches across many sports, there is consensus that players need to experience the technique in a dynamic environment. That will embed the learning.
But how do you start the process or develop that process? Well, the debate rages on. I think you won’t be doing your players a disservice if you choose either. So, why not try the exercise and then game-related Your man, my man. Your players will have plenty of opportunities to try their techniques and then put them to good use.