COACHES CORNER – Where Do I Start My Season Planning?

From Game Development Manager Aaron Callaghan

How exciting, another club season is just around the corner!

For some coaches this is a dream come true, summer has been far too long, bring on rugby season. For others it might be the case that no one else was going to coach so you’ve put the hand up.

The great thing I’ve experienced is that no matter how coaches come into the role, once there, everyone wants to do their best for the players.

So where do we start when it comes to planning the season…

Step 1 should always be some simple self-reflection; a small investment of time up front will add 10x to your season guaranteed.

Here are a couple of key questions to get you started.

  1. Why do I coach?
  2. What principles will guide how I coach?
  3. What values do I want to bring to my coaching?

To get the creative juices flowing you could think about coaches, teaches, parents or mentors that inspired you… What were the traits that you found appealing? This will often give insights into some of the things you really value.

Another technique you might want to play around with if you’ve got a bit of a mental block is, imagine you’re attending your own funeral and one of your ex-players has been asked to speak, what would you like them to say about you as a person and coach? No pressure.

Once you’ve got some clarity around these questions the next step is to think about, what are the behaviours that make these words come alive?

If I was to watch one of your sessions, I should be able to get a pretty good sense of what your values are by your actions.

If you say you want to be known as a coach that is calm and cares, but I see you yelling at your players the whole session, I may challenge your coaching values. Not that they’re right or wrong, but the fact that there’s no alignment, so you either need to change your words or your behaviours.

I know, I know, talking tactics, techniques and drills is the fun stuff we love. This might not be as sexy, but when things aren’t going as well as what you’d like this time invested will serve as a blueprint or framework to process information and get back on track.

As the coach you play a massive part in setting the team culture. Understanding yourself is an important first step that is often missed.

Let me know your thoughts or any questions.

Keep up the great work,

COACHES CORNER – Building Team Culture

From Game Development Manager Aaron Callaghan

It does not matter if you are coaching the U8 or the All Blacks your team will have its own distinct culture.

Culture can be defined as a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, language and behaviours that characterise the team.

When looking at successful sporting organisations across the world there are a few common themes that come up around what positive culture looks like.

1. An environment where making mistakes is seen as a learning opportunity

2. A sense of belonging

3. Attentiveness to others

4. Pursuit of excellence for the individual and the team

5. Character. Great teams are made up of great people

As coaches, we can influence culture within the group. First and foremost, by role modelling the behaviours we would like to see.

We can also look to understand some of the values of the group. As mentioned previously culture is a set of shared values and should not just be a top-down driven hierarchy.

Getting your player group together and asking some simple questions will establish a blueprint for what is important. How does that look? How does that feel?

Questions like

• What does success look like?

• How do we want to treat each other?

• What does a great training session look like?

• Why are we here?

The list is almost endless. My advice would be to go with the KISS principle.

Come up with two or three words that have real meaning to the playing group. Then drill down on what each of those words mean to the group and what are the behaviours that will make the words come alive.

You can then build routines and rituals to make these behaviours become habits.

Just like life it is these positive habits that build momentum over time and lead to positive outcomes and experiences.

If you have any questions relating to this topic or any other questions in the coaching space.

Please email [email protected]

Keep up the great work

Thanks - Azza

COACHES CORNER – Developing Decision Makers

From Game Development Manager Aaron Callaghan

Rugby like all invasion sports could be described as controlled chaos. During a game our players are expected to make multiple complex decisions in the blink of an eye.

Consider the act of passing. The player needs to maintain awareness, what are the opposition doing? What is their own team doing? How will weather conditions affect the pass? What is our game plan? Let's not forget being physically fatigued or stressed will also influence the decision-making process.

At the highest level, the great players are the players that make the right decisions. It is not necessarily the fastest players that will be the most successful but the fastest thinker.

How do we develop decision making capability in our players? Let them make decisions!

Why don’t we take a moment to look at a typical training session across the region?

Some light jogging, stretches etc before hitting a few passing waves, followed up by a couple of prescribed drills depending on what the focus is for the session.

Then split backs and forwards. Backs will sweep up and down the field looking like world beaters as they run through their moves unopposed. Forwards might run through a few unopposed line outs just to clarify timing and calls.

Bring it back together to finish with an unopposed team run or team run with reserves used as defence that are about 50% engaged.

Finally to finish off, the forwards will put a few scrums down on the scrum machine.

For good measure throughout the session the coach will often front foot the decision-making process by telling players what to do.

Have you ever heard a coach yelling “shift the ball wide there is space or push up hard on D”

I’m sure you would agree if we actually broke down the session there has been very little opportunity for our players to develop their decision making ability. Just like any skill, decision making takes time and you need to get your reps in.

As mentioned previously rugby is a chaotic sport, training should look chaotic.

The more training can look like the game, the better the transfer will be from what you do on the training paddock to game day.

As a coach you want to create a training environment that forces players to make decisions.

If you are limited in numbers, you are probably best to split the squad and have defence and attack working at the same time for the majority of your session.

Yes, with opposition training will look messy and success rates might be down, but that’s ok! You are developing those critical skills and decision making in a context that will transfer to game day.

The challenge this week is to think about how you could bring more decision making into your practice to help your players prepare for the demands of the game.

Keep up the great work. Hope this gives you a few ideas. Let me know if there are any specific questions you’d like answered on the coaching front at [email protected] 


COACHES CORNER – How to Keep Your Players Motivated

From Game Development Manager Aaron Callaghan

A question I hear a lot is…. How do I keep my players engaged and motivated?

In a world where players have so much choice and are often used to being over stimulated keeping them engaged and motivated at training can be a challenge.

Let us take a moment to also acknowledge that the average player now a days is built a little different to back in the olden days when I was playing. Back in the day the coach would say run, jump and tackle players would run, jump and tackle. As I am sure many of you would agree, that is not always the case today. This is a whole conversation in itself, but that is for another day.

Daniel Pink’s excellent book “Drive” may give some insights on how we as coaches can create an environment that will keep our players motivated and engaged.

Although Pink’s focus was on the workplace, the key principles are universal.

In essence in the workplace, there was often a belief that if you paid your staff more money, they would be happy and work harder. Interestingly once an individual’s basic costs were covered Pink’s research showed more money actually led to a decrease in productivity and satisfaction.

So what can be done?

Pink boiled it down to 3 key ideas:

1️⃣ Purpose

2️⃣ Autonomy

3️⃣ Mastery

What does this look like in a practical sense as a coach?

Take the time to understand why each player in your squad is there. What is their WHY or PURPOSE. This allows you to be very specific with your language and connect on a deeper level. As they say, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Give your players some skin in the game. Ask questions, listen and take on board suggestions. What does a great training session look like? What did we do well on Saturday? What are some work on’s? What back moves should we use?

The list is endless. Yes, there will be times when you make the call. But there should also be plenty of moments where you are a guide serving your players not the strict dictator. Give it a go. You might find not having to have all the answers makes the coaching role more enjoyable 😀

Mastery is the piece we all love as coaches. That is helping our players get better at the tech tac aspects of the game. Well-designed sessions that will help your players develop. Just to seal the deal you could ask each player what their individual performance goal is and why it’s important.

Keep up the great work. Hope this gives you a few ideas. Let me know if there are any specific questions you’d like answered on the coaching front.

E: [email protected]



COACHES CORNER – Person Centered Coaching

From Game Development Manager Aaron Callaghan

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” (Theodore Roosevelt)

The purpose of coaching is to support a player’s journey towards their full potential. Essentially, you are trying to guide a player from point A to point B. Hopefully a collaborative effort by coach and player has determined point A and point B.

Then the fun begins.  

It is very rare that this journey follows a straight path of steady progress. It often zigs and zags, one step forward two steps back but eventually over time, through persistence we see improvements in performance and adaptability.

All good in theory, but one of the challenges I often hear from coaches is that they have such a spread of abilities throughout their squad.

The first step to overcoming this obstacle is a shift in mind set. I am going to coach the person as opposed to, I am coaching the team.

If you can get a 1-2% improvement for each player, the incremental gains become significant.

The starting point might look very different for each player, but the coaching process is still the same. Start at point A and progress towards point B.

As a coach you need to meet the player where they need to be met. If you stretch them too far, they will shut down and no learning will occur. If you do not challenge them, they will get bored and of course no learning occurs. You need to find that sweet spot physically and mentally.

The starting point is building an understanding of where your players are at. This will change and evolve as time goes on.

Building a basic profile on each player will help you dial in your coaching to the needs of the individual.

Your profile might include how competent they are in catch pass, tackle technique, contact and position specific skills. You could also include game understanding, fitness and what coaching style works for them. Anything that you feel is going to add value to your ability to connect.

What could this look like in a practical sense?

You have a ten-minute block scheduled for tackle technique. Instead of having one station set up (the one size fits all approach), you could use the same drill but have three stations set up with a slight adjustment to cater for all your players.

Drill set up.

  • Rectangle grid
  • Attacker starts at top
  • Defender on bottom line
  • Attacker tries to beat defender

Station A could be a narrow channel where players are only allowed to jog. Great for players that tackle tech is a work on.

Station B channel is wider, and players can run harder. A nice progression for players looking comfortable in Station A.

Station C wider channel again and this time it might be 2 v 2. Here we can start to coach game understanding defensive patterns. A good stretch for players that are looking good in Station B.

Same basic drill tweaked to meet your players where they need to be met.

Any questions please email [email protected]

Keep up the great work!!!