EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

The circle as a constraint for the game to create width in your attack

Use this unusual pitch set up to pose problems for your players to solve. As they work out ways to score they will begin to use handling and support to create width on their game.

Set up a normal game of touch, with the players inside a large circle. The try line for one team is one half of the circle, and the try line for the other team, the other half. Though it seems obvious to us, the players take some time to work out that the easiest place to score is on the edges of the pitch, which is by the halfway line.

After a time, they will start to probe the width of the pitch, spreading out the defence. You can ask the players how they might want to restart the game after a try. For example, where the attack and defence restarts the game from, or if the team that just conceded the try gets the ball.

You can also adjust the size of the circle, with the players deciding how big they want the pitch and subsequently moving the cones out.

Another option is to create different scoring zones. Perhaps make the edges 3 points for a try and the middle 5 points. I like to give the sides the option to create a target, like the first to 50. Then the players are thinking tactically about whether to go for the easier points at the edge rather than the harder but more rewarding points in the middle.

SECRET RULES

You will note that for some of the constraints, I won’t tell the players before the game what they are. I will simply whistle and call turnover. This creates more communication between the players and awareness of what they have to adjust.

SELF-ORGANISING

My style of coaching this type of activity is very much based on delegation. I pose problems to the players and they have to find answers themselves. For example, they might say they want to improve handling.

I then turn that into questions about the principles of play. For example, which principles of play will support this objective. Once the game starts, I certainly won’t be giving them any clues on the tactics. I will ask them if they want to change the dimensions of the game though.

CONSTRAINTS FOR CONTINUITY AND FOOTWORK

When the game starts, I will introduce and apply constraints to improve their processes. In this handling type game, I’m looking for continuity and movement. I don’t want them to be putting the ball on the ground after a touch. If they are touched, they should be looking to move the ball straight away.

My first constraint is that it’s a turnover if the ball goes on the ground after a touch. To begin with, if a player is touched, they tend to put the ball through their legs. I immediately blow the whistle and call “turnover”. I don’t tell them why.

After a while, they start to work it out and shout to each other to avoid doing it.

My second constraint is that a player who is touched square on, that is they run straight into a defender, is penalised with an immediate turnover. Again, whistle but no explanation. The players soon learn to use evasive skills to avoid a square touch. Ask the players for their ideas too.

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