After getting some much-needed rest to shake off the jet lag from Day 1, we headed into the second day of the Premiership Rugby Coaching Development Scholarship with enthusiasm.
The day began with a class focused on the role of the coach. The facilitator for this session was Gareth Hatherley-Hurford, the skills coach at London Scottish Football Club.The course touched on some themes from the Level 200 USA Rugby coaching certification such as the coaching process and coaching styles but it delivered these topics in fresh ways.
Gareth expertly coaxed lots of discussion and sharing of information from all the participants. Hearing the different perspectives from the other coaches gave me an appreciation of all the ways one can reach the same goal.
Gareth also introduced a simple method for coaches to assess their own personal coaching style. The scale summarizes four components of a coaching style as follows:
- Tell — Telling the players what to do
- Sell — Convincing the players what to do
- Ask — Asking the players what they want to do
- Delegate — Delegating coaching decisions to others
I describe my personal coaching style as mostly Tell and Sell. Gareth asked us to set a goal for the week: learn to use all four styles when coaching.
The epiphany moment for me was the idea that each coaching style has its place. The best coaches use these styles dynamically based on the audience and tactical problems being addressed at any given moment.
We also reviewed the principles of play (possession, go forward, support, continuity, apply pressure, score) and how to design practice blocks that emphasize these principles.
For example, each block of practice can be used to solve a tactical problem in three simple steps:
- Purpose — the tactical problem you are trying to solve (i.e. Improve the go-forward ability of the team).
- Game Zone — a game that addresses the purpose/tactical problem and allows for assessment by the coach.
- Skill Zone — a focused game/drill/activity that addresses any deficits identified in the Game Zone.
Finally, Gareth introduced APES, the four characteristics of a practice session that English rugby’s governing body (the RFU) recommends:
From classroom to the pitch
After the theoretical aspects of the module were complete, we moved outdoors to apply those concepts to real coaching situations. We split into groups and took turns solving tactical problems using the 3-step method above. Despite requiring more physical activity than I expected and being pressurized by short preparation times, this hands-on experience was fun and effective.
This exercise also showcased the different coaching styles in the group, and showed the competitive personalities of everyone in attendance. It was a great first day of learning!
Once the learning module was complete, we jumped onto our bus for the 90-minute ride to Rugby, the town where the sport of rugby was founded.
We first toured the World Rugby Hall of Fame. It is a highly interactive exhibit covering not just the early history of the game but also the transition to the modern era, the Rugby World Cup, and lots of player highlights and other historical tidbits.
We then took an extensive tour of Rugby School, the birthplace and mecca for the sport of rugby. We had really knowledgeable tour guides, learned about the extensive history of the school, and even played a little rugby on the pitch where rugby is thought to have first been played.
This was an emotional and euphoric moment for many of us and an important cultural moment on the trip. It’s hard to describe the feeling of being around so many peers with a similar passion for the sport.
Key learning points/observations
- There are many coaching styles and the same result can be reached in many ways.
- Effective coaches can switch styles dynamically based on the audience and situation.
- Rugby values have persisted for decades.
Application to future coaching activities
- I plan to use micronized games (skill zones) to help improve skill deficiencies when solving tactical problems (game zones).
- After a training sessions, I plan to ask the team/players for their feedback on my coaching.
- I plan to use super powers in games to create uncertainty and decision making. Super powers are little adjustments that players or teams can be given that provide uncertainty during a game and forces players to adapt.
Tomorrow we head to Surrey Sport Park to observe the Men’s and Women’s Harlequins practice. We’ll also be doing another curriculum piece on the planning and delivery of practice sessions.