EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

Using the “freeze” reward to enhance your game play

Reward good skills, like early catches. Five of these gives the players a chance to call “freeze”

Use a game with a “freeze” reward to challenge your players’ awareness, scanning, communication and to plan ahead.

The game involves the attack or defence (depending on your focus) freezing the opposition as a reward for completing an agreed criteria. For example, if a team complete five dominant tackles, they can freeze the opposition for 3 seconds to realign.

THE CHALLENGE

Players must reach a set criteria to earn the right to “freeze” the opposition for a set amount of seconds, offering them time to realign and take advantage of a disorganised opposition. Any player can shout “freeze” once the set criteria has been met.

Players must plan and communicate in anticipation of a freeze either of their choosing or a freeze imposed on their team. This encourages the players to be scanning for space and staying aligned.

THE ACTIVITY

Start with the freeze criteria agreed across all the players. This allows players to “count down” and makes it easier to anticipate the freeze.

Use a criteria that links to any technique or skill work you’ve focused on previously, for example:

  • 5 early catches (catching the ball as early as possible to increase time on ball) if you’ve been working on catch and pass
  • 2 regathered kicks if you’ve been working on kicking and kick chases
  • 3 ruck turnovers if you’ve been working on jackalling
  • 10 offloads if you’ve been working on support

PROGRESSIONS

Progress to different criteria per team, making it harder to anticipate the freeze, increasing how organised they must be.

You can add an extra challenge if the opposition can work out what the criteria is for the other team, rewarding them with a counter-freeze.

A counter-freeze allows a team to cancel a freeze imposed on them.

Further progressions could include:

Choosing specific players from each team agreeing on the criteria for their team that only they can know, this could be used to challenge the leadership skills of team leaders or develop the confidence and leadership of quieter players.

Start playing a normal game, and then ‘drip feed’ the criteria to specific players on each team to challenge their communication in getting new information to their team while they’re in-game.

COACHING POINTS

The count

Initially, I’d keep count by shouting each one, but I’d then progress to the players keeping count themselves, and if they don’t then they lose the right to freeze.

I’d still be keeping a quiet count and then step in and say “Is anyone keeping count? So far you’ve missed two opportunities to freeze because you haven’t kept count”.

The freeze

I’d start with 4-5 seconds for the freeze for the first couple of times.

There are also some good opportunities for a chat. For example, asking why players have positioned themselves where they have or if anyone would suggest a better position for another player.

But I’d quickly progress to three seconds, which I feel is the best amount. Then, I’d address any positional stuff at the next break in play.

Actions during the freeze

During the freeze, the team who completed their criteria, for example,  the team currently attacking making five early catches, they would freeze the opposition.

At that point the opposition standstill, no matter where they are (offside or not, they can only get back onside once play resumes), while the attacking team get say three seconds to realign/move.

So the idea is that (in this example), the attacking team will “manipulate” and pull the defence out of shape, for example draw them in narrow with a few one pass phases, then freeze the defence and fan out wide.

The challenge is for the defence to maintain their shape and width so that they’re better prepared positionally for the freeze. Same if it was the defence having to make three dominant tackles as their criteria. This might encourage the attack to attack wider to increase the opportunity of hitting a shoulder or getting round the corner. The three seconds of freezing the attack will give the defence chance to realign, so they can focus more on making their tackles.

Counting down

I usually count down. You’ll find the players will count themselves down, but because people usually struggle to count accurately in seconds, I’ll back this up with a stopwatch.

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