Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

A tale of two coaches (part three) by David Clarke
December 23, 2010, 5:27 pm
Filed under: A tale of two coaches, Dan Cottrell | Tags: , , ,

The story so far:

Phil had played a good standard of rugby up until college days, but had left rugby behind to concentrate on playing squash and his studies. Doug played through college and eventually played a couple of years in senior rugby before, like Phil, he decided to put his energies elsewhere.

Both enjoyed going to watch rugby, though neither found they had the time to go more than a couple of times a year, and an international match was a luxury. But come a major international or the Lions games, then they would both be at the bar with their friends, cheering on their country.

Phil and Doug settled down to family life and when their sons were old enough, they took them down to their local clubs. Tag rugby had its frustrations, but the boys were good at rugby and became key players in their club side.

At the end of their last Tag season, Phil and Doug found that the Tag head coach of each of their teams was standing down. Both knew how much their sons loved the game and were chomping at the bit to play contact rugby. They were a little flattered that their respective clubs asked them to take on the role of head coach: “You have played the game and your son is one of the best players…you would be ideal.”

Last time, we left Phil about to go on a Rugby Ready course, apprehensive about the new season (and coaching girls), and a few players short of a good-sized squad.

Doug, on the other hand, was recruiting on the last day of the previous season, the day he decided to take on his son’s team…

Doug spends the next day organising two more sponsors to add to the donation from his own tiling business. By the end of the week he has sourced new shirts, new tracksuits with money to spare for a tour at the end of the season.

He is just about to press the button to order the kit when he receives a call from the mini’s club chair (Sandra who has a son in the Under 15s and a daughter who is in the girls under 18 team).

“Hi Doug, its Sandra from the club. I am the mini’s chair”
“(ChairMAN)” whispers Doug to himself, “Hi Sandra”, he says.
“I just wanted to introduce myself because I hear you are the new U9s coach. That’s great news and I look forward to catching up with you soon to go through a few formalities.”
Sandra suggests they meet up at the club in the next few weeks and asks if she can do anything in the meantime.
“All good” says Doug, “I have got kit organised and sponsored for next season and we are hoping to go on tour at the end of the season.”
There is a short silence. In fact, Sandra is steeling herself to prick Doug’s enthusiastic bubble. “I don’t want to be a moaning administrator straight away” she says, “but any sponsorship needs to go through the club committee and all the kit is bought centrally.”
“But I have already raised enough money to buy the latest designs – it’s what the kids want”, says Doug.
“I am sorry, but we have a couple of club sponsors who have supported the club for the last few years and we have a stock of shirts to sell. It helps put money back into the mini-section”
“But those old style shirts are rubbish. They are itchy, too big and, frankly, out of fashion. My sponsors will be saving the club money.”
After some further discussion, Sandra and Doug finish the call in a slightly fractured stand off, with Doug tentatively agreeing not to go ahead until they meet with Sandra and the club chairman.

Doug spends the next hour fuming. He talks to his wife, who, though understanding, switches off from the conversation quite early on: “What’s the point of trying to do anything positive – that stupid Sandra woman doesn’t know that boys love kit. She is just jealous I have managed to get all these sponsors. I am going to fight for this, for Harry (his son’s) and his team’s sake”.

The meeting with Sandra and Ross Jones, the club chairman (at least he is a chairMAN thinks Doug), is more frustrating than the telephone call. Whilst Sandra wants to encourage Doug in his coaching, she knows that the club survives on all the sides interacting on financial matters. Ross is more straightforward and leaves Doug in no doubt about the sponsorship deal. “Sorry Doug, we cannot do it. If you want to buy balls and other equipment, then great, go for it. You can buy tracksuits as well, but they cannot have anything but the club logo on it.”

Doug decides to channel his energies into recruitment and preparing the side for the new season. He has already signed up a couple of new players and has asked Harry if any of his mates from school are any good. He remembers one of Harry’s schoolmates plays for a rival club and was the standout player in their last match together.

His wife is a friend of Harry’s schoolmate’s mum, so he manages to get the boy’s father’s number. He is just about to call when he remembers his conversation about the shirts from Sandra. “I bet there is some rule against poaching” he says to his wife. “And I bet that Sandra will have something to say about this.”

Next time we will find out whether Doug speaks to Sandra or does his own thing, or indeed both. And we also catch up with Phil who has completed his Rugby Ready course.

Better Rugby Coaching

Day nine of August pre season training tips: scrum by David Clarke
August 9, 2010, 1:28 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Skills, Rugby Training, top tips | Tags: , , ,

August 9


Good set piece is the springboard for attack. Most teams will have more scrums than any other set piece.

Use the first session of pre season to work on body shapes (profiling). Use the following six points to check the forwards are in the best position.
1. Bend at hips
2. Bend at knees
3. Knees above hips on engagement
4. Shoulder blades back
5. Head in a neutral position through out engagement process
6. On the balls of the feet, with toes gripping the ground through the boots

Better Rugby Coaching

Day seven of August pre season training tips: handling by David Clarke

August 7

Improve your handling in pre season. Easy question?

Er…do all you fitness training with a ball? Is that enough?


Here are five pre season tips to improve your handling:
1. Play touch rugby where the type of ball changes after every try. Rotate with a tennis ball, golf ball, basketball, soccer ball, flat rugby ball, wet rugby ball (bucket needed), over pumped rugby ball.
2. Play “hot potato” rugby netball where a player can only hold the ball for three seconds.
3. Drop balls punishment: juggling tennis balls. If a player drops a ball in the game, he has to go to the side and juggle three tennis balls for five rotations. If he cannot juggle then he has the bounce a ball two tennis balls on the ground at the same time and catch them, repeating that five times.
4. Wrap a sock around the palm of the dominant hand. Now go into passing exercises and games.
5. Pass blindfolded. Get the feel of the ball.

Better Rugby Coaching

The wrong way to coach kids? by David Clarke

I see this too often. Aggressive behaviour followed by calm justification.

You cannot be soft. But you can be fair.

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Out of the gloom, my rugby can prosper by David Clarke
January 18, 2010, 2:05 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Coaching, Rugby Skills | Tags: , , , , , ,

As I look whimsically out of my window at the fog covering the snow capped hills outside Swansea, it is hard to remember a time when one of my teams actually played a game of rugby.

It has been a tough few months in the region, with terrible wet weather in November and December and then a bad cold snap that has covered the whole of the UK.

Amongst the gloom, the excitement of the Six Nations is brightening the rugby land, with players staking their claim to World Cup squad places. It won’t be long before we have Super 14 rugby as well.

But let’s forget thos bright lights for a moment and concentrate on our own rugby. Here are three ways I want my rugby to prosper:

1. Clearer instruction

Any exercise will be understood quicker because I have communicated what I want more effectively. I will pander to all the learning styles.

2. More intensity

I will identify exact moments when exercises and drills will be more intense and make sure that the players respond. Short bursts of high intensity.

3. More fun

Following on from last year, I will introduce more games and competitions into training.


Now to action it. I can’t wait.

Better Rugby Coaching

The way to think of yourself as a coach by David Clarke
December 16, 2009, 12:54 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Coaching | Tags: ,

Here is an interesting quiz for you to consider (taken from coaching guru, Nigel Risner email):

Take a moment to answer each of the questions, and read all the way through. I think you’ll find it well worth a moment of your time.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss World pageant.
4. Name five people who have won the Nobel Peace Prize.
5. Name last year’s Academy Award winner for Best Actor or Actress.

The point is, none of us remembers the headliners of yesterday. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List three teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. List three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Name someone who made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.


The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.

Better Rugby Coaching

Forty seconds to change a player by David Clarke
October 26, 2009, 12:37 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Skills, Rugby Team Management | Tags: , ,

If you had forty seconds with any player, what would you do to make them a better player?

Well, it does depend on so many factors, like how much you know the player.

But let’s say you have never met him or her before. You know the standard of rugby they play and what position they are.

Would it be a tactical, technical or conditioning thought?

I think that I would use none of the above. Instead I would work on giving them a method of thinking about their own game and how they approach it. It could help them build on something they have already, or something they might consider anew.

I would ask one quick question and then give my reply based on that answer.

As the week unfolds I will say more about this.

Better Rugby Coaching