Premiership Scholarship Day 5 – Key factor analysis and principles of play with London Irish and London Scottish

bear man gun

Day 4 of the Premiership Coaching Development Scholarship was busy and exhausting, but the break in curriculum delivery cleared our minds for a full day of learning on Day 5.

We started off with a trip to the Hazelwood Centre, the training and administrative location for London Irish. Here we received the Key Factor Analysis module from Nicola McCombe and Rhys Davies, Community Rugby Coaches at the Rugby Football Union.

After another fun ice-breaker like we had on Day 2, Nicola and Rhys dove into a discussion of using key factors for teaching skills. My group focused on kicking. Our task was to list all the kinds of kicks used in rugby and the key factors for a kick.

Each group then presented their work (covering all the major skills like catch/pass, scrum, lineout, etc…). It was really interesting to hear the all the key factors described in the other coaches own words.

A lot of key factors

One thing that quickly became apparent was that the key factors for any one of these skills often numbered ten or more. This number greatly exceeds the amount of key factors that coaches are recommended to focus on at any one time. For example, in any game or drill we are taught to focus the athletes on 2-3 key factors. This means that you must break complex skills into smaller components for effective learning and retention.

During this session we also got to meet and chat a little with Americans Dan Lyle (Eagle #237) and Bryce Campbell (Eagle #497). Lyle played professionally with Bath & Leicester Tigers and Bryce is currently on the London Irish squad.

After the Key Factor Analysis module was complete, we headed outside to apply some of these principles in practice. Nicola and Rhys introduced some fun games and coaching tips before drilling down into the application of the earlier session.

We focused on coaching the tower of power position and front row mechanics of the scrum. This portion was very much a repeat of the USA Rugby Level 200 curriculum, right down to the key factors. I would have liked to see this advanced to include the key factors and mechanics for second and back rows, and perhaps 8-vs-8 scrummaging.

We finished the first part of our day by observing the afternoon practice of the London Irish and identifying the key factors that were being focused on.

London Scottish

After a short bus trip we spent the rest of the day with the London Scottish at their training base at Lensbury Hotel. We were happy to be back with our Day 2 facilitator Gareth Hatherley-Hurford as well as the head coach Nic Rouse. Similar to the morning session we did a classroom module on the principles of play followed by a practical session where we had to plan a training block and coach our fellow scholarship winners.

Compared to the first time we coached each other on Day 2, today I think all of the coaches showed a lot more confidence and skill when planning and executing their practice plans. Additionally, nearly every group effectively used games in conjunction with skills zones (or micronized games) to solve a tactical problem related to the principles of play.

We also had a chance to chat with prop Dino Waldren (Eagle #502) about his path from playing in America to a professional contract with London Scottish. Coincidentally, Dino had given his jersey to the daughter of one of our coaches Jamie Stephen following an Eagles match the prior year. It was a great reunion for Jamie and nice moment for all of us.

Night cap

In the evening, we headed to one of the local pubs for quiz night and to blow off a little steam.


Winning team at the pub quiz
Pub quiz winners

Self reflection

Key learning points/observations

  1. Fun and safety were stressed all day, both in the classroom and on the pitch.
  2. When approaching a tactical problem at practice, it’s important to differentiate between a decision making error and a skill deficiency.

Application to future coaching activities

  1. I plan to reduce skill complexity so activities focus on just a few key factors.
  2. I plan to use micro-games/skill zones while the main activity is on-going so players stay active and are not “waiting their turn” to train.

Next up

Tomorrow we have a full day with Saracens. In the morning we’ll visit their training center and in the afternoon we have curriculum at their stadium (Allianz).

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