Drills v Coaching; A Huge Debate But What Is The Answer?

September 9, 2016

Rugby coaching. It’s difficult. Not only is it difficult because of the different capabilities and levels of understanding at the grassroots level but also because actually, let’s face it, you can’t re-invent the wheel.


I’m driven insane by listening to some coaches I’ve met through the years who are adamant that a specific way of coaching is 100% correct and another totally wrong. There are those that love using drills to demonstrate a skill and there are those that can get them into a game situation pretty well and use that as the development tool. Each one works as long as there is the desired outcome right?


If you haven’t already, Google rugby coaching. Oh my days. It’s unreal. There is so much in there from different wannabe Eddie Jones’. It’s frightening. There is a constant battle between those drill loving coaches and also those that prefer games. In my opinion, neither is hugely more beneficial, for me, it depends on the coach’s ability and also the ability of the players.


We have to acknowledge that if we compare the level of skill in the UK to that seen in the southern hemisphere, we are behind the times. Our techniques aren’t as honed and we need to improve and fast. I’m not talking about the professional level only either. When I have seen amateur and junior rugby in New Zealand it’s great to see the level of individual ability and understanding. By understanding I mean the ability to know how to break down a defence without launching yourself headlong into the nearest human brick wall. 


As coaches at all levels it is up to us to understand who we are working with so that the delivery works effectively. All kids will want to play games and at some point through a training session they will ask ‘can we do contact?’ too. Guaranteed. Little do they know how that changes as we get older! For those coaches who use fitness through their sessions without the end goal being to get players fitter, you need to be more prepared. That isn’t fair on the kids you are training. Of course there is need for some of it early in the season or through pre season but don’t bore the kids if getting fitter isn’t the end goal. 


I like drills. I think they allow players the chance to really focus on improving their technique which of course leads to a better skill set. Through repetition those skills get better and better so that neurally we get the movement ingrained in our system. We can then apply that within games. Take for example a 3 v 2 drill. For many, if games were brought in too soon, they wouldn’t know what they were looking for. That visual aid that develops through the use of the skill is very important in my opinion to getting players and especially young players to recognise situations. Coaches can then allow that to develop through a range of various games.


One of the problems I have experienced with coaches though is that they are looking for a brand new, never seen before drill which is going to revolutionise their local club leading to promotion!! It’s not going to happen. Even at the top end of the game, the drills are nothing you won’t have seen before during a mini or junior rugby session. It just means that the professionals, through repetition, have got better and better at it so they can spend less time on it. 


I am sure there are lots of opinion on coaching and how you as a coach run your sessions. I have no doubt that you will be doing a fantastic job and also filling a huge void as a coach. What you are doing is hugely appreciated. I would suggest that a balance between drills and games is best at a grassroots level. It caters for more players. What’s your opinion on how best to coach. I’m open to responses…….. 

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