Rugby coaching tips for pre match warm up drills

Whether you like your players to turn up four hours or 30 mintues before the game, there are many views on how long and exactly what should be involved in a pre-match warm-up. Here I pick through some of the myths and give you some ideas and starting points.

Eye on the weather

Be mindful of the weather conditions when you warm up.

Last year I went to the first game of the English football season. It sounds amazing, but I watched both teams work hard in the August sunshine for at least half an hour before the game. Much of the work seemed focused but the players were obviously wilting in the heat. After 10 minutes of the real game, the pace had slowed considerably. The players were shattered because the intensity of the warm up in the heat had sapped their energy.

Use your common sense. If sunny, warm up in the shade. If cold or wet, avoid being outside for too long (it's called a "warm up" for a reason). Establish preparation routines to deal with every type of weather and adjust on the day.

Mental preparation

All players are different in the way they prepare mentally for games. Sometimes a player may even be different from match to match. Some players will want quiet reflection whilst others will need physical and verbal arousal to prepare themselves. Respecting this can be quite difficult as game time approaches and the anxiety grows.

You may need to help the captain to prepare players according to their individual needs. Warm up buddies can help as similar players can work well together to get their minds right.

Not a test of flexibility

Static stretching before the match has been shown not to make any discernible difference to sports players, so time could be usefully employed elsewhere. Yes, players need to be physically prepared, but they don't need to be stretched to improve their flexibility just before a game.

Rehearse for the game

There is no doubt that some form of physical prepartion, involving a mental and physical rehearsal for the game, is important in the warm up drill. However, it is also worth establishing a routine to help players move quickly between the rehearsals. This is to avoid time wasting, but also to maintain some movement so the players don't lose the benefits of the body warm up drills.

This is "tempo time" – getting the players to think collectively and in tune.

Build intensity

How many times have a coach, captain or even an exasperated player shouted at colleagues to wake up and get ready for the game in the warm-up drills. The pace of the warm up sometimes reaches fever pitch with the game still a long time off. And what is to be gained from shouting at the unfortunate soul who has not tuned in to the practice?

A player who makes lots of mistakes in a warm up and is shouted at may be become de-motivated. The warm up, then, would be detrimental to their preparation.

Whilst this is not "touchy-feely" rugby with the game just around the corner, the way forward is to grade the warm up drills, if you choose to use them, to build towards the level of intensity you want before a game.

Therefore players can feel their way in, before there is a short burst of "no mistake" intensity where players can heighten their awareness. You cannot expect all players to be "switched on" throughout the warm up drills, because they are going through so many different mental levels of anxiety before the game.

Back into the changing rooms

Most sides like to return to the changing rooms before returning for the kick off. However, there is a danger that the physical and mental momentum of the warm up drills can be lost by a long period of sitting down and listening before going back out. Use the time to gather thoughts, check last minute adjustments, then focus and return to the pitch.

Rugby warm up drills

  • Two laps of pitch: Good for players to understand their environment, including weather and pitch variations, as well as to warm up the body.
  • Dynamic stretches: Such as controlled high kicks, lunges, fast feet, forward rolls.
  • Simple ball drills:  Getting players attuned to one another.
  • Set pieces work:  For forwards, ten simple lineouts and a couple of scrums (if a machine is available). For backs, go through some of the basic moves.
  • Defence: Four players, with tackle shields preferably, act as attacking players. They move forward as the defensive line moves up. Rotate the players throughout.
  • Semi opposed rehearsal: Split the team in two. Running at half pace, a combined group of forwards and backs play a against the other players. Then swap the teams around.

If you want to inject some fresh ideas into your warm ups, then my Ultimate Rugby Warm-Ups Manual is a "must-have" purchase. It truly is a vital tool to keeping players motivated, and making warm ups fun and challenging. Incorporating the latest thinking, it contains all your warm up and cool down requirements for seasons to come. Click here to read more about the manual and to order it.

This article is taken from the Better Rugby Coaching e-newsletter. Click here to sign up and get free rugby drills, tips and skills twice a week.

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