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Leave The Whistle In The Pocket

How do you coach transition play? Do you coach transition play? Have you considered it? If not, it’s probably time you did, as in team sports the attacking team will get the ball from either structured or unstructured possession sources, with the later highlighting a need to be proficient in transition play.


Structured possession such as set-piece starters (line-outs, scrums, centre-passes, corners, side-line starters) are usually when the game stops for a moment and players have time to make decisions. Everyone knows where the ball is coming from.


Unstructured possession usually comes from turnovers, such as mistakes, intercepts and kicks. Gaining possession will happen, often sporadically during a match and decision-making time will be dramatically reduced, as players are unlikely to know where the ball is coming from. Your players will be transitioning from defence to attack and vice versa.


It is likely that your biggest source of possession will be unstructured, of course this depends on the sport you coach. For example, in adult rugby approximately 56% of possession is unstructured, while kids rugby is as high as 75%. However, very few coaches set up practice environments to practice transition play, which is stifling opportunities for players and teams to practice a key part of the sport.


So how do you coach transition play? The easiest way is to set up games and then ‘leave the whistle in the pocket.’ You’ll find that your players will initially be hesitant and you may find yourself calling ‘play on,’ but they will soon get used to it. Look for how quickly they react and respond to get back in the game.




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