Read Stop And Think

Read Stop And Think

Read Stop And Think

0 comments 📅13 June 2016, 16:12

I have been sent an excellent piece of work from down under, and a lot of its content sits comfortably with our own ethos.


Please take time and read and impact change within your own aims and objectives.


Junior Coaching

When looking back over my first nine seasons spent as an aspiring Rugby League coach I have encountered a multitude of learning experiences covering the variety of different levels in which I have been fortunate enough to be involved. My grounding as a coach started with an Under 9 Division 2 team at Brothers Penrith.

I spent a four year period coaching this team and my involvement was exclusively during the mod period of their development. My most recent position as a coaching assistant with the Penrith Panthers Holden Cup team contrasted greatly with that of a Mod coach, but the lessons I learnt in my time coaching at that level never become less relevant or important.

Below I have listed some important lessons I learnt while coaching Mod Football.

1. All junior coaches need to be involved for the right reasons. Junior coaches have a responsibility to ensure the young men / women they are coaching are having fun, have equal opportunity and are learning as much as possible. As a coach it should never be about you or your agendas and ambitions. It needs to be about the players. This is also a vital message in which parents need to commit to follow.

Honesty is the best policy…

2. In order to build a positive culture within your team environment it is vital that you are transparent and honest with the parents of the players you are coaching. During my time coaching at this level I came across parents to which I am still great friends with, and others who would not have me at the top of their Christmas card list. However I am confident that every parent would acknowledge that I was always honest, transparent and put the development of each individual player at the forefront of my coaching focus. Coaches cannot allow themselves to be influenced or dictated to by parents. Coaches have a responsibility to make decisions that are best for the team as a collective. Not to make decisions which will appease parents who can often only be looking through the eyes of their own child.

The best advice I can give is to ensure you implement your rules, structures and processes early and make sure all parents are aware of them. I would always have a meeting with the parents once team numbers were finalised. This gave me an opportunity to meet and greet them all, but also ensured I could clearly communicate the way I wanted the parent / coach relationship to work, expectations and rules, plans I had for the season and my philosophy.

Simplicity is often the greatest complexity…
3. Keep things simple, it is not the NRL. Having had several years experience within the Junior Representative system the skills which often make or break players at the higher levels are the fundamentals which they should have refined during Mini and Mod football. But often coaches only focus on a players strengths and never wanted to challenge their weaknesses. Always coach holistically and address all areas of offence and defensive skill to ensure players are well rounded and have as many skills as possible. There is no such thing as skill specifics at this level, all players should be taught the basics of kicking, passing both sides, gripping the ball correctly, tackling on both shoulders, playing the ball correctly.

This may all seem ridiculously simple, but as the title reads it is at times the greatest complexity in it is often ignored. I could write hundreds of stories on players who did not have simple fundamentals that in the end cost them a shot at playing at a higher level. The saddest was a middle forward who was only ever taught to tackle on one shoulder and could not pass the ball in any capacity. The question I would ask is how did this slip through the cracks until age 18? Don’t be the one to ignore deficiencies, be the one to fix them, it is our job.

Less talk, more action…
4. During a training session players should be constantly moving and participating. Minimise the time in which you are verbally giving instructions and maximise the time the players are refining their skills within drills. Ensure players are not standing around waiting in lines kicking the dirt, create more grids and challenge them as much as possible. Coach and correct while these drills are in progress, it gives you an opportunity to visually analyse all players and you can individually coach as many players as you want.

Kill it before it dies…
5. This applies to any drill or game which you use during training. Do not use the same drills and games over and over or players will switch off and become bored very quickly. It is much better to end a drill or a game a little early and have the players jumping out of their skin to do it again, rather than having players moaning and groaning with the “not this again” attitude. This will ensure you have enthusiasm within all of your drills and also ensures the players are switched on and concentrating which will allow for quality training to occur. If we have enthusiasm and a high quality of work we are going to be achieving learning gains within most of our sessions.

Rugby League IQ…
6. This is a bit of a buzz phrase in Rugby League at the moment and can be overstated. However I firmly believe that to be the most effective coach and player you must understand the rules of the game in which you play. Teach your players the rules and supply them all with a rule book (available from your Junior League or downloadable from the internet). If players know the rules they understand their environment. How often do you see NRL players not tap the ball on the dash in the middle of the field at a 20m restart? How often do you see players tap the ball while several of their own players are in an offside position? We are creating an environment where our players are not made accountable for breaking the simplest of rules.

Player intelligence is developed through placing players in challenging situations, under pressure in competitive environments, this occurs constantly in live games. 

Training is the big game…
7. There are so many junior coaches who treat game day like an NRL match….. How much control do you have over the result once kids run out onto a football field? Not much. With that said and as hard as it can be, you need to place zero emphasis and importance on the results of your team regardless of the result they achieve each weekend. The competition needs to be created internally, which takes the emphasis off winning and losing. If all junior coaches ever worried about was results each weekend then we would have a large percentage of coaches, players and parents who are discontented in the results and achievements of the team at the end of each season. At this level it is the growth of individual players which will naturally improve each team.

Place a large emphasis on how the players train and their willingness to listen and learn. If that notion can be instilled into players from a young age they are set up for the best possible future both in football and in life. As a coach measure yourself on the development and improvement of players. Too often I witness coaches pulling their hair out after their team has been defeated by a team which has a clear physical advantage (bigger, faster, stronger) and at the Mod level as crazy as it may sound the team who were defeated were clearly the better ‘skilled’ and ‘coached’ team. Size, strength and speed will not last forever, good coaching will shine through eventually.

8. Traditional fitness should play no part in a coaching program for a team at the Mod level. Fitness can easily be implemented into the coaching program through ‘less talk more action’ from a coaching perspective, get the players moving as much as possible for as long as possible. In a one hour session players should be moving for a minimum of 50 minutes. Fitness will be achieved during the games and drills which you create and set up to be competitive, fun and challenging. The best part of having games achieve your fitness outcomes is that the players do not associate fitness with any element of the session.

I often see teams doing laps or running sprints to achieve fitness goals… Firstly when do you ever run a lap in a game? When do you ever run in a straight line for any more than 10-20 metres in a game? Straight away these fitness goals are irrelevant to the game you are playing. The best type of fitness Mod players can get is within games. Encourage players to get to training early and allow them to create their own games and own rules. There will be plenty of time for players to do fitness once the game turns serious as young adults. Coaches need to foster an environment of fun and enjoyment. Doing laps, pointless sprints, push ups and sit ups is no 8-12 year old kids idea of fun!

Copycat Coaching…
9. Ignore what you see on television. I know personally I struggle to watch probably half the teams in the NRL because their styles all look the same and they are often trying to mimic a team or a specific structure which has been successful for another team in a previous season or period of time. This type of coaching is unproductive. Coaches often say I need to implement my “structures and processes” which is fine but the million dollar question is: Do the structures and processes your implementing suit the players you have on your roster? Or are you just copying a style from another team which is perceived to be effective?

At the Mod level there needs to be some semblance of structure because you have the passing rule and restrictions of who can run and where on the field that occurs. Some junior leagues now have bibs for halves and hookers which allow them to run which personally I think is great, however I have seen those systems been taken advantage of by coaches with a must win mentality. First and foremost work out the most fair and efficient system for the passing rule / bibs. Outside of that there should be minimal structure aside from teaching the players basic shape and spacing on both sides of the ball in terms of positions and the role of each player. Give the team some very basic organisational structure for both attack and defence and from there let the players form their own style. It is very hard to create a specific style or structure even if it is conducive to the players at your disposal because players are frequently moving positions and substituting which is ensuring they all gain experience in different positions and roles within the team.

As a coach never fix players to one specific position, let them try a variety of positions and roles within the team. Ensure that players are given equal game time or as close as possible to equal game time. Finally never pigeon hole a player to a specific side of the field, the amount of players who come into representative systems and tell coaches they are exclusively a left or right edge player is scary! Look at it from this perspective if players can play multiple positions, have a broad skill set and can play anywhere on the field they are giving themselves the best possible chance to be the best individual version of themselves.

10. There is not enough respect shown within the game of Rugby League, the mentality and focus is often ‘win now’ and ‘win at all costs’. Respect often goes out the window when the whistle is blown. Firstly players should be taught at a young age to respect themselves, understand how their behaviour both positive and negative reflects on them individually and the impact that it can have on their team. Players need to be taught to respect their team mates and coaching staff regardless of whether they agree with their choices or decisions. But most importantly players need to show respect for officials. Referee numbers particularly at the junior levels are dwindling but yet our behaviour has not changed.

Players should shake the referees hand as a minimum at the conclusion of the match and thank them for the role they play. It is also very important as role models for our players that the coach and parents show the utmost respect for officials at all times, through good decisions and bad decisions, wins and losses. As coach you need to lead that mentality and not abuse referees, blame referees or disrespect them in any way (monkey see… monkey do). Always shake their hand at the end of each and every match and try to build relationships and rapport with referees. There have been several occasions where I have had referees at training sessions to help referee games and also for players to become comfortable with rules and scenarios, this also helps the referees to develop and allows you to build a working relationship with them to which you can discuss rules, interpretations and share knowledge.

Brock Shepperd
Level 3 NRL High Performance CoachSTOP AND THINK

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