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They are Kids, not Pros!
They are kids, not pros! Ease into advanced development to keep enjoyment
A budding rugby player’s first exposure to the game takes place in a world vastly different to the grand theatres of domestic leagues, club finals or even the achievement of becoming a paid professional.
Like those wonderful years of childhood which all children seem so desperate to put behind them, many young rugby players want to learn it all as fast as they can.
After all, they aren’t watching their heroes play backyard rugby, and it is natural that any excitable child will want to trace the same footsteps as their idols.
However like the transition from child to teenager to adult, there is plenty of time, and introduction to rugby should follow a similar process, there is no need to rush.
Remember, often the first full match a child plays might be just down the road on the local field against another team whose players live nearby, and a rugby side’s first competition or tournament may only feature a small handful of teams.
Rugby coaching toolbox covers core skills and drills on and off the rugby field, but this feature is designed to help give your charges some tools which often set the tone for the rest of their career.
One of the most famous examples of this was a very young Richie McCaw.
He made it very clear, he loved to run on the rugby field, a crucial part of the role which would eventually become his pet position – a hungry openside flanker who tracks the ruck and breakdown like a hawk and covers more metres than most.
So his parents and first coaches made it simple, go for a run.
And so Richie did, hitting the pavements for 5-10 km sessions, not only building the now legendary aerobic capacity of the All Blacks captain, but also combating what is McCaw’s own admission that he was something of a ‘big kid’.
Simple as you like.
Before the layers of coaching and strategies are translated to the team, the first teachings are simple.
Working and helping your fellow player, sacrificing your own position or promise to set someone else up - these are the plays which if developed will make the art of contact, or more to the point, potentially avoiding it, something of an art form.
Some players will thrive with the tests that come with becoming an elite rugby player.
But those examinations need the initial platforms.
Even the most humble beginnings will lay the groundings for your players.
It starts at home
- Get children to involve the family, the more support at home the better the player becomes.
- Make sure at every opportunity the family are attending matches and even better, training sessions, as parents might be inclined to run these drills in the backyard.
- Get the interaction right between coach and player – you don’t need your charges grumbling or moaning at the dinner table, you want them excited!
- Have a home connection for training, whether it be kicking the ball over the old tree out back or play evade against all the small plants out the front.
All of the big rugby processes have quiet starts.
- Traveling is not just part of international rugby, but for all levels, even if that travel is car-pooling players to the next suburb.
- Get players understanding the principle of a build-up week, even if it is just attending training and eating a bit of extra fruit and vegetables to help you recover.
- Make associations where possible, if parents iron their children’s jersey and leave it on the bed before they wake up on game day, it begins to mimic that excitement players have when they are getting ready for a match.
The most important thing is to ensure that fiercely competitive juices are not flowing too much in the early stages.
The friendship and unity that children get playing a game is paramount, leave the “we’re not going to their changing rooms” and the sledging to the professional ranks!
Rugby isn’t just about the game, the tackle or the scrum - for children, it is about developing confidence; trust in your mates and the eventual discipline that is needed if a player wants to represent the highest level.
Take your time coach, and these young kids will blossom into the rugby players you hope to see them become.