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Time in Good Places “The Season” (5)

I had the pleasure of shadowing Wayne Smith for some time during the Women’s World Cup. He sent through the Black Ferns schedule a good month in advance, and all the training sessions were planned. This took me aback, as I couldn’t work out how they knew what they were going to train that far in advance. Essentially, he had developed a weekly training template to spend large chunks of time improving important facets of their game to play the way they wanted. It got me thinking...

To that point I had generally planned week to week, analysing and reflecting on the weekend's game, then making the necessary adjustments. But I realised that I ended up changing the focus each week with little consistency, plus planning from scratch was taking me a heap of time each week. So I decided to create a training template to: a) save time, and b) spend time in high-impact areas.

No matter what sport or grade you’re coaching, a good starting point is to consider how the game looks, what happens frequently, and spend a lot of time getting good at those high-frequency events. For example, in U11 rugby, the game looks like:

  • 2-3 lineouts a game

  • 10-12 scrums

  • 12-20 kick-offs

  • Ball is in play for 65% of the game, with lots of turnovers

Based on this, it seems reasonable to spend a heap of time on ball in play games, integrating scrum starters and kick-offs, and zero time on lineouts (as they are a lottery). Additionally, spending time on key individual skill development around passing, catching, tackling, and rucking is crucial. I outlined to parents and players that by the end of the season, we hope that all players would be able to spiral pass in both directions and tackle with both shoulders.

So based on all of this, our training weeks look like this:

Mondays (optional): Each week, we design a different ‘Explore Game’ with an attacking focus, which encourages the players to explore new ways of playing (e.g., kick passing, off-loading, playing with width, popping off the ground, etc.). The game initially starts with touch, often beginning with a kick-off (to spend time practicing that). We mix this in with 5-minute blocks of pair spiral passing, 5 minutes of 2v1/4v2 decision-making activities, and a 5-minute 1v1 tackle box. We generally progress the Explore Game to finish with full contact.

Wednesdays (full team training): We frame the game around ‘Jackle Touch,’ so there are rucks, ball presentation, cleanouts, and decision-making based around this. Again, we break this up with 5-minute blocks of spiral passing and 1v1 tackle boxes. We also do a ‘ruck and rumble’ 3v3 full contact activity in a 5x10m grid. Small spaces allow for some decent contact. We then progress to a full contact game in bigger spaces, integrating kick-offs and the occasional scrum starter.

I did overlook scrum starters for a good portion of the season until I noticed our backline standing in a flat line on attack and often leaving players unmarked on defence. We are sorting that now.


Match Review

We’ve been improving nicely and were ahead in a game we weren’t expected to win. Unfortunately, we conceded three tries in the last five minutes and lost by three points. Despite the loss, the boys played exceptionally well and dominated in the breakdown, which was very pleasing.

However, the day wasn’t great for me. I was refereeing the match and pulled my calf muscle in the second half. I limped off the field to the amusement of the supporters. Oh man!


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