“The pressure just helps your decision making and stuff, because it forces you to make decisions, whereas if you’ve got no pressure you can just jog it through and go through the motions. With pressure you start to see the options you have better, because it becomes clear when there is that actual pressure coming.” (17 Year Old Rugby Player - quote from Game Sense Study)
Often as coaches, we want to see high levels of success from our players in practice environments. And to increase success we can be guilty of reducing pressure such as slowing things down, reducing spaces and taking opposition away. However, when we reduce pressure, this can deny opportunities for our players and teams to make and execute relevant match-like decisions. If we want decision-making skills to transfer from practice to match, we should aim to spend as much time practicing in context, which includes applying relevant pressures.
Photo by Quino Al
Now there may be some occasions when reducing pressure will help decision-making, such as learning a set-play. However once proficient, applying added layers of pressure will stretch learning and enhance decision-making.
The easiest (and arguably most relevant) way we can apply pressure, is through opposed practices, as there is only so much value, that ‘running against the wind’ can provide. To make the obvious obvious, when our players and teams play matches, they play against opposition, so why not use opposition in practice environments to increase decision-making opportunities? We as coaches can manipulate rules, constraints, scenarios to increase pressure and ultimately enhance decision-making opportunities.
Now it becomes a decision for coaches. How much pressure?
Check out the Game Based Rugby Coaching programme for more ideas related to this topic.