It’s great to have seen so many coaches over the past couple of weeks looking to better themselves, working hard to improve their coaching techniques and they way they deliver the right messages to amateur teams, both senior and the minis/juniors across the UK. Social media has shown so much going on, it’s brilliant to see so many valuable volunteers care so much about the game. As well as the players, coaches need to continue to get better too so that the groups they are looking after stay enthused as well as feeling themselves improve.
Before even starting to get too far down the path, it’s very important for coaches, especially those looking after the young players, to have a genuine understanding of the skills and how to perform those skills so that the basis is there for players as they grow. It’s not only the physical skills that need to be understood but coaches (at every level) need to know how to deliver the message they are wanting to get across. You may be the best coach from a technical point of view but if you can’t get your message across in the correct manner for the team you are looking after then your own skills are wasted. Spend time thinking of the best way to engage with the players you are looking after, it makes a massive difference. Some, for example, might find it hard to converse effectively with younger player and find it easier to coach at a more senior level. That’s fine, just acknowledge this, put your hand up and move into the correct environment.
One of the problems that is seen, especially at the amateur and grassroots level is the difference in skill levels. You might have the 1st XV training with another 40/45 players in some clubs which are blessed with good numbers. Your sessions need to cater for and provide balance for the best player and those that find the game much harder to pick up. No one enjoys a session that is either lacking in challenge or is far too difficult. You’ve lost if it falls into either of these traps. Incredibly difficult to find that balance though in many clubs.
As coaches, one of the aspects of the game you take on is delivering the message of who is playing in the team. There is a certain age where this will have an effect on players should the selection not go their way or should players find out through the wrong channels or should they be told in the wrong way! Coaches need to develop their skills of speaking to players, letting them know that are in the team, what they need to improve on or maybe letting them know they aren’t playing or have been dropped this weekend. You coach, you accept this task, it’s not something you can hide from so equip yourself with the ability to front up to the task. Too many coaches hide from this job when all players want is to know where they stand and to hear honest reasons why they aren’t playing or someone is picked ahead of them. Develop your ability to let them know effectively in a way that doesn’t damage their enthusiasm for the game and motivates them.
Like players, coaches should always be looking to find resources they can learn from. Read up on other coaches, talk to the players you are looking after, find out what they find the most rewarding, the most challenging as well as some of the things they think could be refined and improved. One of the values of the game is honesty and if we can’t rely on this from coaches to honestly look to improve then where are we going to be? Drills aren’t going to change and there isn’t a book of drills out there that is going to re-write the coaching manual - the never seen before manual. Little adjustments to fix and improve of elements that need working on will make a difference to player development. Don’t become obsessed with having to create something brand new from a blank canvas, it’s already out there and has been thought of before. Refine the drills you know and make are they reflect the requirements of your team. Listen to what is going on during your training sessions too, you will pick up a huge amount from listening to what players are saying to each other during training and you can use this to improve your offering. It can be a thankless task when coaching but it should be the most rewarding task. Seeing the improvement and enjoyment players get from turning up is all down to the thought and hard work you have put in for them. Continue to do so by looking in every corner of the rugby world for little bits of information and thought which can add something interesting and motivating to what you are doing. Enjoy it as much as the players, you do it to have fun!