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U13 - What Can I Do?

The competent 11 –12-year-old player is comfortable with the ball and can demonstrate a number of skilful solutions to evading pressure. Their maturing body control and coordination provides the agility to change speed and direction quickly.

Rugby practices should include significant periods of technical repetition and opposed activity to reinforce and refine this technical base.

For some players, early adolescence can often mess with agility, coordination and balance. These skills may regress for a period of time until rapid maturation has passed. These physical changes can also take an emotional toll as insecure players struggle to overcome the frustration of moderate performance and social status concerns.


This age group usually has long-term behaviours already set in concrete, but they also adapt and change quickly. Many of them are used to new teachers and they mix more with adults at this age, so when a new coach comes along, these behaviours you don’t like can be changed quite quickly.

Techniques used in lower grades may seem a little tired by the time you get to this age group, but most of them still work. Give them all structure to work in.

Before their mouths open, give them your 10 commandments. Boys in particular need good guidelines around them. You only have them for an hour so keep them busy and they will be happy. Being happy and the fun element is the product of good skill development. It is not a separate drill. Giving your team fun games is not the answer because your job is to develop their rugby skills and not just be the fun coach.

You must treat them like 12-year-olds, not little All Blacks. Become familiar with what’s in and what’s not. Make sure you are not what’s not! Kid’s language changes, so it is important that you pick up on the slang as quickly as possible.

Believe me; you don’t want to be a coach who is out of touch. What do they like to watch on TV? You need to become familiar, although not an expert, with what happens in their lives.

At this age you must give them an understanding of the game. Let them know their roles and responsibilities. This is the time to begin explaining why. Begin to box your players – body type, experience and skill levels starts to determine the team’s look and feel. This doesn’t necessarily mean once a wing, always a wing. It comes back to being clear in setting the players’ roles and responsibilities on the field.

Be honest – give short reasons for your decisions.

Praise carefully here and avoid artificial praise and awards. These are very see through.

Praise should simply come from them trying their best, not for when it’s good and definitely not all the time. There is nothing worse for this grade or their parents, to see the “whose turn is it for the player of the day award?”