Dropped ball – apply the food rule

I love designing new games to play in training. I take inspiration from lots of sources and shamelessly use ideas from other sports. I’ve tried to identify what makes a good game and several things are clear.

First, and those who might have enjoyed a beer and drinking game after a match will know, a good game is a quick game. Spend too much time on setting out the numerous rules and the players are frustrated before they start. Then they find it hard to get their heads around the game itself. More rules can be added in at a later stage if needs be.

Second, there has to be a risk and reward element. That is, to score more points, you have to take a risk. There is a danger. If there are no consequences, then there’s no risk. For example, if you drop the ball during the game, what happens next? Well, in a normal match, if it goes forward, you lose possession immediately, either for a scrum or the other team to gather to play advantage. If it goes backwards, then the opposition might be able to pounce on it. Otherwise it simply slows down your attack.

Therefore, a dropped ball can be bad news. But we do need to ask why it was dropped. It could be poor skill perhaps or a pass under pressure which might have been aimed to release a player into space. If the players played under a no-risk policy, they would be to hold onto the ball and you wouldn’t drop the ball.

But, as we know, we need to pass to find space and sometimes, pass at the very last moment to draw a defender. Let’s take that into a training game and not allow knock-ons. That’s close enough to a real match. But a dropped pass or a pass that doesn’t make it to the intended receiver could have a modified rule which has a risk and reward element.

The reward of attempting the pass is a chance to go onto score. The risk must be some sort of turnover. How about the “food rule”? If it’s on the ground for more than three to five seconds it’s a turnover.

It’s based on the completely non-scientific understanding that if you drop some food on the floor, it’s normally okay to eat if you pick it up within five seconds.

I’ve used on wet training days in particular. It encourages the attacking team to regather the ball quickly if they do drop it. I also find it helpful with younger, less experienced players as well. It creates urgency over a dropped ball, even if it has been knocked on.

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