Let me start by asking you a question….
What do you do during your sessions on a Tuesday and Thursday night?
Would it be far off the mark if suggested that Tuesday would be contact night and skills and Thursday’s were dedicated to refining team movement with a team run for the last 30 minutes after the forwards and backs have split to practice playing from set pieces?? Both sessions running from around 7.30pm through to 9pm finishing with the coach bringing players in for a rallying chat ahead of Saturdays big game??
Its exactly what I was used to as a player and exactly what I deliver as a coach, but tonight something changed…. something clicked in my mind and I asked myself the questions;
“What was the point of that last 20 minutes??”
“What did we gain from it??”
“What did the players learn??”
My transformation as a coach started honestly about 3 years ago where I made a conscious decision to remove all the shackles and place the onus squarely on the shoulders of players My coaching philosophy became as follows – “I want to create a free thinking, creative and independent player able to make the right decisions at the right times based on whats happening around them” – From then on thats when my inner self found its voice and started to question everything I was doing as a coach (At times this was also bloody annoying!)
So back to the topic of this blog… Are we wasting the players time with that last 30 minutes or so for team running? On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being extremely important where would you place the importance of the Thursday night team run?
The team run allows the players to play from line out, scrum and restarts. It allows the team to practice their phases and patterns, refine their structures and ensure everyone knows what they are doing on Saturday….. So surely its a vital part of the week isn’t it? Well tonight I have made the commitment to never waste a players time doing something that adds no value to their development or the effectiveness of the team- like the team run!
I am a massive fan of games as a means of learning, creating ‘experiences’ for players to bank in their mind library so that whenever they find themselves in a similar position on the pitch then they may well have the solution from experiences gained in training…. an example of this would be a player that recognises opportunity to use a kick pass or a grubber kick into space because the full back is buried under the last breakdown. I absolutely love asking questions of the players such as “what was the intention” or “if you were in that position again what would you do differently”. I cannot find the words to describe just how powerful a tool this is, I consistently see players starting to think more about their game and what they can do in order to develop.
The argument that I am having in my head this evening is how can I shape that last 20 minutes of a session.. It was really interesting to ask one of the players tonight how they felt about the team run. The response was a 6 out of 10 for importance which I found surprising. Feedback such as “Well we should all know what we are doing by now” sort of confirmed what I was feeling and made me realise its just running patterns for patterns sake. No real purpose or scope other than to satisfy a coach that the team can generate the desired movement around the paddock!
So I have some ideas for the next few weeks… and none of them involve a team run!
Its exciting to think about what is possible and moreover how it can be done. Can I create something that the players really enjoy doing that has a real purpose and relevancy to Saturday’s game? One coach suggested using scenario based stuff such as practising the counter attack which is a perfectly valid thing to do. Even so I want to create something that works on staying faithful not only my coaching philosophy but also to the principles of play.
My last words to the players tonight ahead of Saturdays game was “be ambitious”, “be creative” but how can that happen if they practice playing patterns – its a real conundrum that requires a solution.
The debate in my mind continues!!!