Rugby is a collision sport of which the tackle is a fundamental skill. Tackling skill mastery is a goal that every coach hope to achieve with their players. The benefits of having technically skilled tacklers are twofold they are less likely to miss tackles during a game and less likely to injure an opponent or be injured themselves. This being the case are we as coaches best preparing our players to tackle?
More often than not coaches will implement some variation of a skill zone/game zone approach to designing their coaching sessions. This has its benefits of providing an opportunity for the young players to advance their understanding and skill development in a skill zone then apply this new knowledge into a game situation or game zone.
During the skill zone or skill breakdown situation, as a coach, it is much easier to identify any technical skill areas that the players need to improve on. This being so, it is common to create drills that generally allow the players to work one-on-one or in small groups to improve before rejoining into a team-based game.
Once the team is back together working in a game zone, ask yourself how much does this resemble match play?
Work by Tim Gabbett and Jason Kelly in 2007 demonstrated that there is a dramatic decrease in tackle skill execution at higher speeds than lower speeds.
So I reiterate how much does your skill training resemble the match demands?
If we slow down the tackle to develop technical ability with our players, we must be mindful that this is not how the skill is implemented within the game! This being the case you will likely see your player technique breakdown during match play as they are unprepared for making a tackle at game speed.
What can you do to prepare your players to tackle?
1. Develop your player's skills at a slower speed so you can identify individual needs that you can address.
2. Then make sure to allocate some time in your training session to maintain technical quality at faster speeds - that are representative of match speed.
3. In doing so, over time, you will find that your players become more proficient tacklers during match demands which in turn will make your defence more efficient and the game safer.
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