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How to Coach Rugby Skills

For players to perform well at any level of rugby they must acquire a number of skills. Skill learning begins with mastery of the basic skills and techniques and progresses to applying those skills in increasingly competitive situations.

It is one of the coach’s primary responsibilities to provide each player with opportunities to learn and practise skills in a positive and constructive environment. Appropriate skill learning, especially at the junior level, can set the platform for future potential elite performance.

1. Choose the best position for the demonstration, i.e. consider wind, sun, group size, sound effects, echo, etc. Have the children sit or kneel and have no distractions. Use simple language, not too many words and ask questions regularly to ensure clear understanding.

2. Show the whole skill, then break it down in parts (these are the KEY FACTORS), and then link the parts up to form the whole skill again.

3. Reinforce with a demonstration by creating an ‘image of the skill’ in the mind of the child. Don’t demonstrate what not to do.

4. Select the appropriate practice form with the use of grids, circuits or line formations.

5. Provide feedback during practice, but be specific, constructive and immediate.

Modified Games

One of the best ways to learn how to play the game safely and effectively is to play modified forms of the game that reinforce the Principles of Play, e.g. Any game where players use evasive and ball handling skills to create space:

It’s best to begin with small side team games (e.g. up to eight players in each team) in a smaller playing area, as each player gets to be more active by being closer to the ball and being more actively involved than in a regular game on a full-size field.

The game should involve as much handling as possible as this will give all the players the opportunity to run and pass the ball.

The size of the playing field should be adjusted according to the number of players on each team.


Standing still at trainings helps no one. Take different positions when coaching. Don’t stand in the same place. By moving around, you will get a different perspective of the practice. If you find effective and ideal angles to view during activities, you will be a better coach and your analysis will be more accurate.

You can also motivate your kids while walking around. You can work wonders for every kid on your team if, during each practice session, you walk around to each player, address them by their first name, and say something positive to them with a smile.

Before and After Practice

Comments sink in best immediately before or after practice. Use this critical time wisely. What you say at these times will usually be remembered, for example, suggest that each player could go home and come up with an activity of his or her own for a skill that was just taught. This reinforces what you have been doing.

Kids love to be empowered and engaged in the learning process, so include them.

Kids may be asked what they did at practice. Use after practice time to tell the kids and they might remember at dinner time.

The coach is just like a teacher. A teacher critiques their students, a coach critiques their players.

To critique a player’s skills you break the skill into key factors and the same applies to your coaching techniques.

  • Walk kids through one skill (key factors).
  • Demonstrate skills correctly. Are you competent enough? Should you use a player to demonstrate good technique? Remember that children are likely to copy other children so make sure it is done correctly as children will copy mistakes too.
  • Use terms and keep them consistent e.g. Hands up… make a W.
  • Don’t break up the skill too much. You may lose them.
  • Put them through an activity so you can critique your players. Again, walk your players through.
  • Progress this activity to a stage where there is some form of opposition if appropriate. This can be a game situation.
  • Repeat key messages and skill activity to make them clear and understood.
  • Practise, practise, practise!
  • Don’t get tuned out by the children. This will happen if you are constantly critiquing them. They will change channels. Combine critiquing with your satisfaction in what they are doing (critique with success).