EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

Using the WHY and WHAT to devise a game

When we are using or devising a game, we now know to think about:

  1. Which principles of play we want to promote.
  2. The key skills the players need for that principle.

At this stage, we won’t consider other concepts like spatial awareness or decision making. We can leave that for later.

Principles of play are the means to develop skills and not the other way around. If the skill becomes the driver for the session then you might compromise the principle of play. Here’s one way this might happen.

When I was involved in writing the current rules of play for mini-rugby, one of my colleagues was insistent that U7s and 8s should have a 4-pass rule. That is before a team can score, they should have to pass the ball four times.

There are many arguments for not having that rule, not least of which is the understanding of child development. However, the rule had a consequence for the first principle of play: Go forward.

The desired skill is passing and the constraint is that a team must pass four times to score. Yet, the consequence is that a team either doesn’t go forward or stops moving forward to get the required number of passes in.

It also impacts on decision making. Surely, we want players to identify and take try-scoring opportunities? If that is after one pass, why would we put a constraint on the game which stops them taking that opportunity?

You might consider that case study when you put passing constraints in your games.

As a side-note, don’t forget the egocentric nature of 6 and 7-year-olds. Many coaches don’t grasp this and want to see kids playing an adult game, hence the desire for a three or four pass rule, which almost totally undermines the first principle of play – Go Forward.

What the children do really well and naturally is support. Try implementing a three-pass rule with 7-year-olds, and watch the first three players stand still and pass and the fourth player do what all the others wanted to do: Run like hell until they score or get tagged.

Now it’s time to put this into practice in the next lesson.

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