EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

Shared understanding and ownership

A game model evolves as shared understanding develops and players take ownership

How do you develop shared understanding?

  • On the board in the clubhouse for example. Vince and the players can talk through the strengths, the ways to play to those strengths and the alternatives.
  • On the training field. This is less about tactical, more about what happens when they play. Vince and the players will be asking themselves: did we achieve our tactical goals in that play we tried out?

Then ask the players: Where are we looking, why are we looking for this? In their case, they are looking for space on the wing because that’s where they will score more often.

In which case, they can try out some solutions. Can they “fix” the defence with this play? Can they realign quickly enough to attack in a certain way?

What is meant by ownership?

The players are allowed to present their own solutions to the tactical problems being set. For example: How do we get the ball to the wing?

How do players take ownership?

Teams will have the same tactical solution but different ways to do it.

Should the players offer a different solution, Vince has to say: Go for it. They can then judge whether it works or not.

Warning: You need to think about whether your players are experts or beginners

Research shows that experts respond more quickly to complicated information and therefore pick up on cues more quickly. Vince has to make sure he doesn’t challenge his players beyond their limits, otherwise, they could become completely overloaded.

The cues that Vince wants the players searching for must initially be very clear and obvious. For example, “Simon, can you see where the wingers are standing in the backfield?” “Adi, can we create a quick midfield ruck?”

As the players start scaffolding their understanding, the cues can become more nuanced. Scaffolding is building a support system around the players so they can develop without going away from their task. You don’t give more complex tasks until they are ready to move forward.

Do you now know your why?
Yes, I know why we are using a play, which comes from the what and the how.
The what is what we want to achieve, the how is the way we are going to achieve.
And how about the players knowing the why?
If the players have a better understanding of the principles, what our strengths are, then they can start to come up with their own ways. If we have set out a plan to, say, get the ball to the wingers quickly, and they have bought into that plan, if they want to deviate, they need to have a “why”.
Give me an example.
Well, if our number one play is to use a three-pass play to move the ball to the winger and the 10 comes up to me and says...I can just kick it there. I can ask him “why”. If the answer aligns to our principles, then we can try it.
Great. So, because the 10 knows why he wants to use a kick-pass, why would you say no to that?
If he couldn’t execute the play?
Well, again, the 10 should know his own strengths and whether the wingers can catch that type of pass. How about if the centres ask if they can try out a switch play?
Well, that wouldn’t work. A switch play doesn't take the ball wide. It could help us hold space, but that’s not why they want to do it - Adi just wants to run into someone, that doesn’t align with our principles.
And, how would you deal with that?
I would ask them to review our principles, what we are trying to achieve. A switch play simply takes the ball back towards to the source and not to the wingers.
Right. So, keeping to the principles...by asking them why. It is a very important development within a team when all the players can verbalise why they are running a play.
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