With the start of a new season, I have been down at clubs in SW London to help parent coaches with ideas and support following a long off-season due to the pandemic!
Overall, I have been impressed with the effort, dedication and energy of all the parent coaches I have worked with, this season. Some common themes came up, all of which are no new phenomenon and are likely happening at your club, and here are the three main things I found myself saying most often:
1. Engage from the beginning, and you will have them eating from the palm of your hand.
This point relates to the warm-up. If you start with a fun, engaging and purposeful activity, it allows you to set the tone for the session; the players get to run around and let off some of that excited or nervous energy at the beginning of the session - no standing around, and no lines of players. There are some great resources from the RFU on their Activate Programme that can be found here - https://www.englandrugby.com/participation/coaching/activate
2. Let the kids play.
Often, in our work lives, we are used to so much structure, and we often think it is best to bring this to the rugby field, too. In some cases, such as the technical side of tackling, rucking, scrummaging and lineouts, this may be the case, but a lot of the time it is best to provide the problem by giving the conditions of the game and allowing the players to work it out for themselves, with the coaches input to guide. Too often, though, I see when given a 10-minute block of time to deliver, coaches explain what is needed in so much detail it ends up taking up to 3 minutes to get started! In this example, it leaves only 7 minutes to practice the skill or play the game.
One thing you could try on your next session is limiting yourself to a maximum of 30 seconds to explain the game or skill, throw the ball in and correct as they go. After the session, reflect on how much more opportunities the players have to succeed within the conditions you have set.
3. It does not have to be perfect.
Structure rules our lives, and when the game isn’t going exactly how we want, too often we want to bring some more order to it. But in a lot of cases sport isn’t ordered; it’s messy, chaotic and unpredictable, which is what makes it so fun to play and watch. When playing games in training, I often ask myself is this serving its purpose? For example, if my aim is to improve passing, do I need to be worried about a forward pass, as long as they are increasing repetition? By stopping the game, you are preventing the players from practising. If there is a coaching point that everyone needs to know you can stop the session, but otherwise let the game flow and provide individual feedback to that player throughout the game.
At the next opportunity, try playing a game that turnovers only happen when a try is scored, or a player goes into touch. Allow it to flow and focus on building the individual players.
Give us a call or drop by anytime, we endeavor to answer all enquiries within 24 hours.