Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Play, joue, go for it by David Clarke

Just play the game. “Joue” as the French would say.

Too many times players come to rugby training to “play rugby” and yet go away from a session with a five minute game at the end as a “reward”.

I gauge a good “junior” session by the amount of times the youngsters say to me: “When can we play a game?” The less the better!

With my Under 9s team, we start our sessions with a game, then another, do some skills and then play another game. The games at the start have some conditions, such as the types of pass used, or the size of the pitch. The skills might be extremely modified games and the game at the end is as close to the real game as we can with the numbers we have.

The challenges are:

1. Covering the full range of techniques correctly. Actually the games tend to use most of the skills, so modifying the game allows us to isolate some of the skills and yet keep them in some context.

2. Keeping all the players involved. Certainly at younger age groups one or two players can dominate. We have moved players around the teams, played smaller sided games or just removed the players if they become too greedy.

3. Personal feedback. In a game situation, with so much going on, specific feedback can be lost as the ball moves on. We are lucky to have three coaches, one who referees, one on the pitch as the game is played and the other stands back to look at the wider picture. From these positions, we observe different angles, say things from different persepctives and the coach who is standing back can offer something to the player the two coaches too close to the action cannot see.

I wonder whether this model can be used for more senior teams…


2 Comments so far
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Having recently returned from Japan, where my main concern was getting the youngsters to play games freely, without worrying about whether they are doing things correctly or not, encouraging them to think for themselves, I have found the difficulty here to be the reverse. The youngsters here enjoy the game aspects, but in the early stages, I found it very hard to cope with their lack of focus; when they were playing around with kit, throwing balls at each other, and generally not concentrating on the (frequently simple) skills aspects we had to cover. I like Dan’s approach, and have tried it, but the transition from game (1) to skills practice has often not gone well enough to go on to game (2). I do subscribe to this approach though, and I think I have to keep on working on better ways of dealing with the lack of attention.

Comment by Steve Johnson

I coach a U19s squad and do player reviews before and after each drill/skill/game. Its good for the players and myself. I’ve done my best to follow the part-whole-part and whole-part-whole methods in practice and the players have responded well, by giving maximum effort, wearing large smiles, and being positive to each other.

Comment by joshuaryoung

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