Top skills advice: Translate drills into a match performance

Though it sounds obvious, the number one priority of any coach is to see a clear transfer of skills from practice ground to playing field. Australian skills coach Mick Byrne tells you how.

There are three challenges for the rugby coach: 

1 To understand the technical aspects of the skill

Without this, you do not have a template for success. I have broken down each skill, like passing for instance, into its component parts to know what movements the body needs to make to achieve a desired outcome. To know the principles, you need to understand the anatomy, physiology and psychology of the player and his skill levels. You need to know the principles of that action. 

2 To work with the individual to achieve better outcomes

This is not simply a player conforming to a template. It is about developing the individual within their own skill set, letting him adjust some aspects, yet retain other methods which might be peculiar to him.

3 To recognise that there is a way to perform a technical skill

It amazes me that in so many different sports there is a clearly understood method of achieving an outcome and everyone is working towards that definitive technique. For instance, we know that in golf, the club has to be square at the point of contact. Yet, in rugby, there are plenty of schools of thought on passing, tackling and goal-kicking. No one has isolated a technique that is universally accepted. 

The challenge for the coach is to know which to select and to apply with the individual. So, there is a technique or principles of movement that we should adhere to. It is interesting that in other sports there is a priority to define the correct technique.

In rugby, we just go with what we think or have learned before. The challenge for the coach is to understand the correct movements that provide consistent outcomes. 

Individuals are mostly the same

Does this mean that players can have their own peculiar style and we don’t need to intervene? In some cases, yes. The main measure of success is the outcome. If a player has an 85 per cent kicking success rate, then you would not want to be messing around with that approach too much. 

But that happens only once in a generation, so, with most players, you will be returning to your template. The clever part is the subtle adjustment of the individual as they seek out the perfect technique. 

You help them work towards this, while the player must do it within the confines of their own body and mind. Take for example the golf swing of US top golfer Jim Furyk. When the club head meets the ball in the swing, all the principles are in place to strike the ball straight down the fairway. However, and those who have seen the swing will know, he has a rather strange waddle at the top of the swing. He has developed his own way of getting to the answer, but the principles are in place to deliver the right outcome. 

  • The right principle must be used to achieve the right outcome. 
  • There is a template for each principle. Very few players cannot follow that template to be successful.
  • You must let the player discover this for themselves.
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