Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

A tale of two coaches (part two) by David Clarke
November 15, 2010, 8:07 pm
Filed under: A tale of two coaches, Dan Cottrell | Tags: , ,

Last time we found Phil and Doug had taken on their respective son’s Tag teams. Both had played some rugby, though Phil had concentrated on playing squash whilst Doug had continued on for a few more years. Both their sons were better players in their teams and each had, reluctantly initially, decided to take on the role of head coach.

Let’s look at Phil’s first few months. He is handed the “file” at the end of the season. What with work and other commitments, he has not had much chance to assess what is happening until June (with the season starting in September). He gets a call from the club coordinator, asking him if he will be at the junior meeting next Tuesday.

After about half an hour of searching on the Sunday before the meeting, he finally finds the file and discovers four pieces of paper in poly pockets. He has nine registered players from last season, though he was sure there were more at the end of season tournament. He asks his son (Rory) and they work out there are at least another seven players – though Rory is pretty frank about who is good and who is bad!

He rings up last year’s coach, who is suitably vague about numbers and says his son is playing soccer next season anyway. One registered player down.

Phil decides to look up the age grade guidelines on the internet, but finds it difficult to navigate to where he needs to find out the information. To be fair to the governing body, Phil is pretty lost about what he is looking for anyway. But he is starting to realise that it will not just be a case of turning and running through a few drills.

Arriving at the club on Tuesday, he seeks out Nigel, the club coordinator. Nigel reassures him immediately about the “admin”, and says they can have a look at “things” over a pint after the junior meeting.

The junior meeting is everything one expects from a junior meeting. The chair keeps to the agenda whilst three more vocal coaches seem intent on raising issues which are three points ahead of the agenda. But Phil feels that the coaches are very much like him, dads and mums with sons who want to play rugby. He looks around the club room and sees pictures and shirts from players who have made it to representative teams. He wonders whether Rory might be one of those.

Suddenly he realises he is being asked a direct question: “Phil, can we book you onto a Rugby Ready course in July or August?”

“I will need to check with my diary and of course the controller of the diary!” says Phil as he takes out his personal organiser.

“It’s okay, the club pays for all the courses, but in this case it’s free and only for three hours.”

Phil puts a date into his diary.

The meeting ends and Phil meets up with Nigel, and two other coaches who are starting this year. After going through “admin” on health and safety, club child protection, Phil asks about playing numbers.

“You will need to go on a recruitment drive” says Nigel. “We have a club day at the start of the season, but you will have to encourage boys and girls to come down here”

“Girls?” says Phil.

“Yes, most of the teams up to 11 have at least a couple of girls involved.”

Phil is surprised by his own fear of coaching girls. Rory has a younger brother and he has only had brothers himself. This will be another challenge.

Nigel offers him some further advice: “Get yourself on a Level 1 course as soon as possible, it will help you organise your coaching far better. And, even more importantly, get some help!”

Frankly, Phil is shattered by his undertaking. He has a pile of paper to go through and fill in, he has to recruit or register enough players to make a team, he has to organise himself to get on these courses, plus he needs to find some “help”. He is starting to regret saying yes at the end of last season.

How about Doug, the other dad and coach? He was asked to coach his son’s team at lunchtime on the Sunday of the last day of the season. By the evening, he has already recruited two of his son’s best mates from school who were playing soccer and spoken to his business partner about sponsoring the team for next year.

Part three soon.

Better Rugby Coaching

Are you ever tongued tied before a rugby talk? by David Clarke

Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you are nervous. Perhaps you are going to talk to a senior figure in coaching or be at a function with famous players or simply meeting a group of players you have not met before.

Some coaches will just “talk”. Others will struggle to find the right words.

Here are some approaches to ease yourself into the situation and finish off confident of a good outcome.

1. Start with just smiling.
What do you feel if somebody smiles at you? if you the same thing, they will feel as you too. A smile can break the situation and make everyone feel better.
2. Just talk about simple thing that it is not directly related to the situation.
It may be about current topic, the weather, your journey. Ask them about their journeys or health. For instance, “You look well”.
3. Give respect to what others say and try to listen carefully.
Your body language will open up and put everyone at ease.
4. Introduce your self and try to explain what you are interested in.
5. Avoid talking any serious business straightaway.
Make sure that other trust you as a person.
6. Show that you are a serious person.
Don’t be flippant or offhand in the way you treat individuals or subjects. It is better to be complimentary and respectful.
7. Say good bye and leave with positive words.
A simple thank you can be good enough. A formal end to the conversation again shows respect. “Please excuse me” is enough if you are moving only a short distance away.

Better Rugby Coaching

Playing the B team by David Clarke

Tomorrow night a team I coach will be playing the “best of the rest”. The “best of the rest” are the boys who did not make the Young Osprey U16 squad at the start of the season. They will now have a chance to prove a few points.

This game has many positives.

1. It will vindicate many or all of our selections.

2. It might bring to light a player we missed first time, either because they were not developed or they were just did not do enough when we were making the selection.

3. It gives us a chance to look at our wider squad with a couple of the “best” players rested.

Approaching the game is an interesting coaching exercise. Our game plan will not change from a normal game, but it is mentally a different thought process.

I look back on the times when my team was either playing down against a lower league team or playing up in a cup run.

It was quite a good position to be in when playing against a lower league opposition as a winger or fullback. It allowed me more space and time because often the opposition organisation was weaker, even if my opposite number was my equal. It was often the forwards who bore the brunt of the onslaught!

The key mental attributes were patience in attack and physicality in defence. Not bad approaches whatever your game plan. However against lower league teams, you need to back your fitness, organisational ability and all round skill.

It will be interesting to see what the outcome of the game is. I know my team is very excited, but not half as excited as the boys and their parents from the opposition.

It won’t be a stroll in the park. Dare I tell you the score on Thursday morning.

A good rugby coach can be a lazy coach by David Clarke


I am tired. But I am also excited. It has been a busy few days pulling together some thrilling projects at Better Rugby Coaching. Lots of travelling, meetings and sorting. It is my eldest son’s 12th birthday today as well, so an early rise this morning.


As I yawn, it reminded me that, like many coaches, I will sometimes arrive at training sessions tired from all the other things I have to do. I would not want to take any shortcuts in my rugby coaching. It would pain me not to put in 100% effort into the rugby training exercises I have pulled together for that evening’s session.


Yet this effort, the huff and puff, the energy expended on behalf of others can be misplaced.


Look at this quote: 

“Progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things”

Robert A. Heinlein American science-fiction Writer, 1907-1988

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