Mini and junior rugby is a delight to watch on Sunday mornings. I love going to clubs across the country and seeing how many young boys and girls get their kit on no matter what the weather, to have a run around and enjoy the game we love so much.
At my own grassroots club, Sevenoaks RFC, there are more than 500 juniors that regularly have a run out on Sunday mornings! It’s great to see the effort and time given by some Mum’s and Dad’s, who get involved in the coaching, to ensure the kids first impressions of the game are good ones.
Junior coaches sometimes ask me to provide them with coaching drills that they can implement into training to keep it interesting for the kids.
My response to this is simple.
At a really young age you need to get them to play games and allow them to grow a love for the game and enjoy having the ball in their hands.
But as time moves on and they move up through the age groups I think some coaches are looking to re-invent the wheel with regards to the drills.
In my opinion, this is not required!
Take New Zealand as an example. They are by far the best rugby team in the World and there is one reason for that. Their skill set is second to none.
The All Blacks do the simple things well time and time again when they play the game and they beat teams on the back of that. Fixing defenders, running straight and passing when it’s on rather than taking contact, sets them apart from everyone else.
The problem is, how do you get to the point where your skill set is as good as that?
For me there is only one answer. Do the basics. On repeat.
As coaches, don’t look to try and complicate drills and exercises just because it makes them new. There is no point unless you have found something that has genuinely been missing from the coaching manuals.
Players need to learn not to get bored when doing things well.
When I coach my team, that’s what I say all the time. Why would you get bored doing the simple things well? I don’t get it. I’ve seen so many players who want to pass the ball round their back in an offload, but who can’t even catch and pass the ball in front of them - it’s frustrating to watch.
Don’t complicate things for the sake of it. Make sure your team and your players can do the basics well and then add in different situations to improve decision-making and skill development.
The onus has to predominantly be on the players to develop their focus and concentration in training so they don’t get bored, but it’s also up to their coaches to change their mindset by reiterating the importance of a basic skillset.
At professional level there aren’t mind blowing drills to make players better, it’s repetition.
Little pointers that can help players learn and develop the basic skills are, for me, what coaching kids is all about.
Keep an eye out for our E4R Camps, where kids are given the chance to learn about the fundamental values of rugby and the importance of nutrition, as well as acquiring a good rugby skillset!