Educating our school rugby coaches - Green and Gold Rugby
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Educating our school rugby coaches

Educating our school rugby coaches

I have for a long time been perplexed at the vast difference between how schools run their academic program versus how they run their sports program.

Let me give you an example:

Kid A is studying biology. Each day he receives theoretical tutoring in the subject, which he later has to practically implement during experiments and assignments. After the term his knowledge of the subject is tested during a thorough exam.

Throughout his school career, everything he does is measured and assessed to ensure that he develops sufficiently in every subject.

However when it comes to sport, hardly anything gets measured. Most teams are selected using very little science. The ‘curriculum’ is often not formalized or structured, and get’s administered by various new coaches each year – who in most cases have no idea what the previous coach did or at what level of development each player is.

We do not measure whether player’s learn the rules of the game, leave alone the skills required to perform optimally. We also do not measure match performance properly outside of maybe the first team at clubs and schools.

“He is good in attack but a bit scared to tackle, and he does not have BMT.”

A great many school’s coaches can in 2019 still not elaborate about individual players’ skillsets, or recall with any amount of certainty whether a player had a good game or not. A missed tackle or a knock-on (while the coach was paying attention) often means the player had a poor game, while scoring a try obviously means the player had a good game.

With this in mind I did a little research while developing an analysis program in Ireland and South Africa during the 2017 season. I measured the game contributions of 1 player during a school’s rugby match, and afterwards asked the coach to complete a little survey about the player I assessed. I tested 18 players – all of them playing at number 13 (outside center.) I did not tell the coach which player will be assessed, and afterwards asked the following questions:

1) How many tackles did the player make?

2) How many ball carries/passes did he make?

3) How many rucks was the player involved in?

Here are the responses:

12 

On average the player’s made 6-9 tackles each, passed or carried the ball 3-6 times and attended 3-6 attacking or defensive rucks. In spotting tackles, 50% of coaches guessed correctly. In ball carries or passes, only 10% guessed correctly, while only 5% knew how many rucks each player attended in attack and defense.

To summarize, the 18 coaches interviewed had only an above 20% comprehension of their player’s performance. Imagine what the score would have been had I asked more specific questions, like whether the tackles were missed or dominated, or whether the player breached the gainline when carrying the ball?

In stark contrast, if I were to ask the player’s math teacher on a Monday how well the player performed in his last test, the answer would have been a conclusive score, not a  vague thumb-suck with a 20% accuracy rate? The reason the math teacher is able to provide a conclusive answer is because in the realm of academics, school’s measure and assess every step of each learner’s development. However in the realm of school’s sport, the same methodology does not apply.

What is the difference between learning to play rugby and studying math?

Rugby today is a professional sport with a vast amount of opportunities to earn a living, be it as players, coaches, referee’s, agents or analysts. So too is cricket and football. My question  then is why do different learning methodologies apply when coaching one or the other? Why are we working so hard to make sure Johnny knows his academic work so that he can get into university, yet on the sports field we just ‘whammy it’?

Sport at school’s level is first and foremost about participation and ‘fun’. However in those sports that offer career’s, is it not time that school’s and clubs apply the same standards of education?


Brendon is a developer of measuring tools for community rugby. His skills and game analysis systems can be accessed at www.rugbycology.com. Engage Brendon on all matters rugby @rugbycology

 

  • AllyOz

    Very interesting reading Brendan – thanks for posting.

    • Brendon Shields

      Cheers Ally

      • AllyOz

        I used to work in commodity market analysis. I think the place that most teams need to start would be just collect the simple physical data on players around fitness and capacity. That could be done pretty quickly (30 min session) at the beginning, middle and end of each season. Stuff like shuttle runs times, vertical jump heights, strength, raw physical measures of height. Then also testing specific skills at training and recording the results and looking at whether that translates to what the coach thinks he’s observing.

        Some comments here rightly mention the difficulty already for a coach in the school system who, from my experience, has probably taken somewhere close to 15 calls from parents that week with suggestions on why their boy or girl should be selected in X position and how you could coach them better as they can do better than Johnny because they are excellent in the passers in the backyard when they are playing with their younger brothers. But seriously, if time is an issue, concentrating on 1 or 2 skills to analysis per game (ones you might have worked on during the training week) and recording those skills good be pretty handy for every players overall development. If you, as an U13B’s coach, can hand on key information to the U14s coach then it should assist in there scheduling and pre-season training. It is less likely to me that it would have immediate impact for that year and that’s the issue as ego sometimes dictates whats done and who is selected but, in a programme that is genuinely focused on producing the best rugby players over the course of their schooling (which is what you are trying to do in academics in one sense – get them their best possible result by EOY Year 12 exams) it is very valuable.

        From an individual childs point of view, being given a report card that shows that you are 7/10 for your right to left passing accuracy but 4/10 for left to right etc would be useful for them in what they work on at home or in the off season to become better players.

        • Brendon Shields

          You are right on so many points Ally. I have been engaging schools and club coaches for over 10 years now, looking at analysis programs from all angles.

          My opinion is that if we are to measure anything right now it will not be match performance or player performance. It will instead be how they accumulate and ‘tick’ off all the skills they are in the process of developing.

          I have measured the skillsets of close to a thousand players and can honestly say that skills levels are decreasing by the year, because a) school coaches dont get the time to focus on each kid and b) because outside play-time has been butchered by tech toys.

          So to measure skills development at individual level is key. Secondly we need to build data on player injuries. How and when they occur. Which players are most prone. Which areas of bodies get hurt more.

        • AllyOz

          There is also a short season, ambitious coaches and parents and pressure to win in the short-term – which doesn’t always translate to doing what’s best for developing players in the longer term. Unfortunately human nature can work against the best possible results sometimes.

        • Max Graham

          I hope some good app developer looking for an idea is reading this!!

  • Yowie

    “My question then is why do different learning methodologies apply when coaching one or the other? Why are we working so hard to make sure Johnny knows his academic work so that he can get into university, yet on the sports field we just ‘whammy it’?”

    Because the classroom teacher has a week to mark the class’ tests but the coach has 80 minutes to monitor 15+ players (and do a dozen other jobs) in real time?

    Your article seems to push for more monitoring & evaluation resources to be applied to school rugby. The finite nature of resources in schools (even expensive private schools) means such an approach (if implemented) will still only be available for the top teams.

    • formerflanker

      Yep, fully agree.
      I do know that rudimentary analysis (coach pouring over game-day video with pencil and paper, counting tackles, hit ups, offloads, try assists etc etc) was being done 15 years ago. Today a much more sophisticated system is operating but as Yowie says, it’s done for top teams of heavily resourced schools.
      One important aspect of coaching not to be ignored in the rush to statistical analysis is the understanding a coach has of the team.
      Simple adding up of tackles made isn’t as good as the coach understanding the team morale value of one dominant tackle or a season-defining covering tackle.
      Take Gregan’s tackle on Wilson in ’94. It counts as 1 but is in the pantheon of great rugby moments.
      An extreme example I know but important incidents happen many times in a game and good coaching will see an overall “vibe” that simple stats don’t provide.
      Good coaches will use statistics as an aide, not a crutch.

      • Max Graham

        You’re right in principle, but the evidence is showing that coaches aren’t aware of the stats at all, let alone relying on them as a crutch. It’s not binary. When I was in u8’s my coach had stats on passes and tackles and now wish I used more stats rather than ‘gut feel’ when I had a shot coaching.

    • Brendon Shields

      You make a good point as to why we might never reach the same type of analysis on rugby progress as we do academic progress, but it should not stop us from trying. And for me measuring the growth of an under 14C player is more important than measuring the first team player. If we are to make sure each kid gets exposed to the game and grows and develops, we are bound to strengthen the weakest links.

      And when it comes to rep team selection, this becomes crucial. How does a coach know which of two equal players are best? You cannot thumb-suck these things.

  • Yowie

    “My question then is why do different learning methodologies apply when coaching one or the other? Why are we working so hard to make sure Johnny knows his academic work so that he can get into university, yet on the sports field we just ‘whammy it’?”

    Because the classroom teacher has a week to mark the class’ tests but the coach has 80 minutes to monitor 15+ players (and do a dozen other jobs) in real time?

    Your article seems to push for more monitoring & evaluation resources to be applied to school rugby. The finite nature of resources in schools (even expensive private schools) means such an approach (if implemented) will still only be available for the top teams.

  • Wonky Donkey

    Throwing a book at them instead of a ball is probably a backward step.

    Modern teaching in coaching should be using Game Sense or Teaching Games for Understanding approaches. In a nutshell, small modified games the specifically target set skills and decision maling that can be transfered to the real game. Teaching through games and playing is more realistic situation where players can see cause and effect, realise their own understanding and discover their own solutions.

    While these approaches are mostly used in schools, elite teams have been using them for example hawthon FC a few years back.

    What i wonder is how many coaches know and implement evidence based practice or just run sessions based on what they did 10 20 years ago?

    • Brendon Shields

      Wonky from my experience the wheel turns slowly. But coaches are getting around to it. Also I am not advocating that kids are coached by book. Instead I advocate for a more thorough measurement of each player’s progress.

      • Wonky Donkey

        Actually ive seen these tools in tennis and hockey taught at school. Types of shots recorded. These successful those not.
        Sometime Games are played and players recorded their own data. If there was a way for players to record their own data, not only, would you reduce workload on coaching but players also learn about and actualise their own performance. But rugby isnt tennis so I dont know how player can do this.

        Maybe intergrating school subjects, math and sport? Have thise who do not play watch rugby matches played by the school teams and then as a school project display and report the findings to the coaches and players.

        • Brendon Shields

          As Ren has mentioned above, the curriculum route is by far the best. It might take longer to convince the role players and to get things started, but once you do, everyone will benefit.

        • A long time ago a mate of mine who hated rugby with a passion got into American football in the UK. Playing rather than watching. There was a local side and all kinds of people, including a lot who couldn’t or wouldn’t play showed up (including me once or twice). If they were willing to show up for training sessions too, they got roped in to do things the coach deemed useful and suitable. That might be holding tackle bags, or timing sprints or recording downs, passes, tackles etc.

          I didn’t like American Football, still don’t, but I appreciate in many ways it’s a lot easier to measure some of those things – nice markers on the ground and so on. But a maths class could record the data for a game and a training session as a project in theory. You’d have to see how it fits into the maths curriculum and you’d have to see how it continued over time – doing it for one game is better than no games, but not as good as a season’s worth of data.

    • Who?

      It’s really hard to know which teaching games you need to run if you don’t have accurate information on which areas need to be improved… I don’t see anything above about how to coach the skills, only a case for the need for coaches to better understand what their players are actually doing.
      .
      The point about players scoring a try having a great game is painfully accurate. Not all coaches are like that, but all parents and too many coaches are. I’ve also stood watching rep coaches screaming, “Great tackle,” when a poor Under 15’s rep player has gone in to make a full steam right shoulder dominant tackle on a ball carrier to his left. Rather than noting it as something to work on, because the tackler’s put his own head in jeopardy, and wasn’t able to put on a dominant tackle because he was driving across the ball carrier, rather than through the ball carrier.

      • Wonky Donkey

        Yeah i agree (i changed my mind) there needs to be asseasment in order for coaching to be more effective.

        I have and would use such tools to coach, through I believe some of us fear coaches and young players using they in a way that doesnt promote an encouraging or educative environment.

        But, Imagine playing a game and having the mind set I need X tackles this game. Player goes out out of the line to get tackles messing the system or worse not making the number, not enjoying a game or the environmoent because they dont enjoy it anymore Because they are always being assessed.
        Even our wallabies talk about making sure they enjoy the game.

        Definitely a useful tool but it needs to be used as an aid

        • Who?

          My son’s coaches used to give him tackle targets per half in U10’s/11’s. Generally, one, maybe two! :-D
          Some kids need that. It benefitted him – he defended quite well through U11’s and 12’s. Showed bravery and hung on for dear life (he was a scrumhalf). Not perfect, but a huge improvement over U10’s.
          But I agree, it’s an aid, not a targeting system. For most kids, it shouldn’t be used to give clear targets like that, but to provide training techniques. “Play this game to develop this technique.”
          .
          In terms of lack of enjoyment… How many GPS players go on to play club? I question whether there’s much enjoyment left in that program…….

        • Brendon Shields

          Some kids do need the push. Even later on some players prefer benchmarks as a means to drive their own performance. But they are in the minority. Most lads still just want to play for their mates and for the enjoyment of winning. Again, team stats here work better. You can lose a game but show a 19% improvement in the line-out and maybe achieve one other positive goal. Team stats help the focus shift away from winning=good and losing=bad. Players respond better to that as well in my experience.

        • Brendon Shields

          I tried that and still havge a software program that helps schools achieve that. St first it gets great results because players start pushing themselves a bit more. But after a while it needs to be managed, because individual goals can now override team goals. I now focus more on coaches and them measuring certain aspects of their own play (focused a lot on territory) so that their training sessions can be based on real issues – not imagined ones.

          Its crazy how many coaches after a game assess that their big trouble is ‘those passes not sticking’, when in fact they lost 3 line-outs in the opposition 22 and did not regather a single kick on their own kick off.

          So there is something to be said for schools coaches measuring team performance (not individual performance) a bit more to design better training sessions that address real, not imagined weaknesses.

      • Brendon Shields

        I think the problem arises because parents and players are not exposed to any detail beyond who scores the try and who makes the ‘big hit’. Similarly a player who takes contact and ‘bumps’ a defender would rarely be questioned, not matter the overlap he or she butchered in that action.

        How we attach value to game contributions is simply not in the open domain.

        What I find odd is that the template of how to improve sports people is so well developed and practiced daily by people under the same roof. yet so little of the methodology of teaching gets applied to the sports-field.

        We are not even trying in the most cases, and in those environments where we Do apply science, its only done to win more games, not to develop players individually.

        Tha’ts akin to a school only running extra math classes to win a state competition – not to grow their learner’s understanding of the subject.

        • Who?

          Your last line. That’s half the problem. How many schools tell kids they can’t sit OP/ATAR, because they know it’ll knock down their school average? I know the local Rugby schools are well known for that.
          .
          Similarly, institutionally (not as individual teachers, but as an institution), they don’t care about increasing kids’ enjoyment of Rugby – or any of their sports. They care about where they finish on the ladder at the end of the school season. How many schools have a number of non-scholarship kids in their First XV these days? Do kids get scholarships so they can enjoy their Rugby, or so they can win the school a title, in order to increase enrolments?
          .
          The drive for a title exists in clubland, but the reality is that clubs exist so people can play. Regardless of where they finish on the table. So enjoyment is more likely to be found in clubland than a school program…

        • Max Graham

          I prefer clubs over schools; however I would be surprised if there was much evidence around to support your last sentence.

        • Who?

          I agree, it’d be hard to support it with hard data. But player retention rates would be the best indicator. Something like 95% of school players never play rugby again after school, even when approached by clubs.

        • Max Graham

          Did you just double down with invented stats?

        • Who?

          Stats that were given to me by an administrator back in 2014. They weren’t on paper, they were discussed in a sub-union meeting and treated by all there (people with more experience than me) as trustworthy. They were discussing specific players and school teams.
          .
          They could be wrong, but it was genuine unhappiness (not anger, sadness) that they were approaching former school players who all were saying they didn’t want to play after the pressure of their time in the Firsts.
          .
          Where there’d be difficulty is with club data. It’d be hard to know why those kids who don’t go from Colts to Seniors don’t make the transition. Did they find the step too big, did they dislike their team mates, did they move away (to uni, back home from boarding school, etc)..? Whereas school, the kids are known, and it doesn’t depend on them staying within the same club – it’s about joining ANY club.

        • JennyG

          Very interesting and I agree. It’s strange that the idea of “winning” also has the

          outcomes of enjoyment, participation learning, developing, etc. My son’s school purports to be about these ideals and not just about winning but, in reality, boys who have the potential to be in the A teams often aren’t because they get overlooked if they can’t tackle or score tries, the only 2 things that are “seen. This leads to boys who do other good stuff (kickers who can’t kick if a try is not scored or the team is told to run the ball for a try from a penalty) opt out of the game because they’re not given a chance or helped to improve or be selected in the appropriate team.

  • rengc

    “However in those sports that offer career’s, is it not time that school’s and clubs apply the same standards of education?”

    Answer: No.

    Appreciate what you’re trying to achieve here Brendon, but from someone in the education system and the school boy rugby pathway- your angle is flawed. The premise of holding up curriculum and suggesting schools should invest time and resources to apply the same data capture processes on the sports field just won’t wash. Schools exist to produce well-rounded citizens that are capable of contributing meaningfully to society- not to pump out high performance athletes. This is the lens that education decision-makers apply when allocating resources. A detailed quantitative skill and performance data bank might be great to give teachers a clear snap-shot of how good their students ‘really’ are at a particular sport (assuming your programs can be applied to sports beyond rugby), but it does little in the space that is the core business of schools.

    • Brendon Shields

      Ren I agree with you for the most part. Schools are geared at creating well-rounded individuals (as well as workers for the job market). I think a good starting point would be to insist on some form of scientific framework when it comes to the selection of rep teams. Having coaches push those guys who they ‘think’ are good ,is all good and well, but its not true meritocracy. Its in this field where I reckon we can start demanding a higher standard.

      • rengc

        Selecting representative sides is always going to be a grizzly endeavor. I’ve had plenty a ‘difficult conversation’ with parents and I’m sure there will be plenty more regardless of the processes we have available to select teams. As you only get a small window to make a judgement, one of the more import (and yes, unfortunate) data points is what you or your fellow selectors ‘know’ about a kid. Luckily (not really) in the case of rugby, there’s not an awful amount of depth at the moment so picking 23 capable of playing at the next level (no matter what level that is) is pretty cut and dry. You raise a good point though, it could add value to selecting rep teams, but your issue here is that you’re really narrowing down your target market and few school sport representative pathways are resourced to have such support in the selection process. I’d suggest you target the curriculum approach as opposed to the high performance route. Every senior HPE program incorporates units of collecting and analysing data and as GPS technology becomes more affordable, schools are resourcing themselves with such tools and these units are even becoming prevalent in junior years. Without know the ins and outs of your programs- I’d avoid advocating for schools to resource extra curricular activities as they do curricula programs cause you’ll lose that battle every day (I promise you that as a former PE/Sport teacher who’s had that battle countless times). Instead try working with the curriculum.

        • Brendon Shields

          Curriculum approach- thats interesting Ren. I am talking to guys at the Reds and at Rugby Australia currently about getting basic sports measurement techniques to become part of a curriculum, so that each school can generate it’s own data. You dont need video to get most of it done. But the benefits are immense. You have to get the IT guys and computer skills guys and even run some of it as part of math program. Every sport in the school can benefit from having some learners gather data as part of their academic program.

      • Who?

        Brendon, I think your push is fantastic. This sort of analysis is the only way to genuinely improve players. Because you can’t improve players if you don’t know what you should be trying to improve. We don’t need to be looking to punish players for not getting up quickly enough after making a tackle in Under 10’s (save that for the pros), but it’s hard to pick up tackle/breakdown technique issues when you’re watching 7/10/12/15 kids across a 40/50/60 minute game.
        .
        I’m not involved in the schools. I was involved in club (ran one) until my family got to the age where we were pushed out of the club by scheduling to suit schools, and by traditional bias towards school players. Meanwhile, I’ve seen the way schools resource their coaches, the way that coaches are dragged in (often parents, without any sort of training, barely even Smart Rugby from what I’ve seen!).
        .
        I don’t doubt the motivations and efforts of teachers in those schools. I know enough of them, they’re good people. If they’ve been in the school for a while, there is tendency for them to develop an abhorrent self-importance as a community, a clear elitist attitude towards their own school (had one say, “People are just jealous because we’re the big school in a great location” – no, people can’t stand you because you’re horribly inflexible and self-important. Most of us are either quite pleased for your financial success, or have no thought about it.). And that attitude then changes teachers’ efforts from attempting to create well-rounded individuals to people who have a clear sense of their own importance, and a sense that their own success is built off the school, so they’d better send their kids back to follow the same path to success. Which aligns better with the board’s plan, because, ultimately, the schools don’t care about Rugby, or even academic results. They care about enrolments, and will only fund things that ensure a stream of well-funded parents continue to send their kids to that particular academic institution, rather than the one down the road.
        .
        Rugby can work for that. I know I wrote recommendations (upon request) for almost half of the U12’s team I coached for scholarships at private schools, as well as kids from other teams. Most weren’t successful. Yet about 1/3 of my team changed to private schools for high school, primarily – if not solely – for rugby purposes. And I can assure you, it worked. Kids who missed rep selection in Under 12’s were suddenly rep players in U13’s, with no notable improvement other than school affiliation (that’s not to say they were unworthy in U13’s, it’s to say they were unnoticed in U12’s). So Rugby can work for that. But it’s at the edges of consideration for those on school boards. Especially when most of the kids who I saw go through were middle class, struggling to keep up with the fees. Hardly the target market for the schools.
        .
        It even filters into rep Rugby, as the majority of Level 2 coaches – and therefore Rep coaches – are in the schools. The QRU certainly gives priority to school coaches doing those accreditations, over club coaches, and over their own staff. So you end up with the most qualified coaches running rep, meaning school coaches, who then just go and pick their First XV for each age group, meaning the club players are completely disincentivised, completely ignored, and club players (who subsidise state titles and the like through their fees) end up paying for ‘rich’ kids from the elite schools to get more rugby as prep for their school season. Leading to kids quitting rep footy, and sometimes going to League.
        .
        So I don’t for a minute think there’s any consideration of meritocracy in rugby whilst it’s dominated by institutions whose primary focus is their own existence as academic institutions.
        .
        I think there’s way more market for your program in clubs, but there’s less money and fewer volunteers to use it. I know I’d have advocated hard for your program when I was a club president.

        • Brendon Shields

          Thanks for a comprehensive reply. I really appreciate it. I dont mind if my own involvement is not suitable or if my programs do not find traction. A larger concern is that our game is under threat not so much from other codes, but morse from Samsung and Apple and the shiny forms of entertainment they present.

          Losing a kid from the game because he did not make a rep team and now deems himself unworthy is an issue. In many cases the parents invest time and fuel and all else in the kid because they think he can make it, and once he fails, they ‘save’ that money and spend instead on other things.

          Its only fair then that the process becomes more transparent and more scientific because the cost of getting it wrong is more today than it was 20 years ago, when kids had little else to do but kick a ball about.

          So you have the two angles : more science to better develop the basic skills of ALL players, and more science to make rep team selection a bit more transparent and clear.

          Getting those right will be a start.

        • Who?

          My son’s goal for this holiday (given he’s ‘retired’ from Rugby, as described in my massive reply) is to play as much Xbox as possible. So I agree – we want kids outside!
          .
          I’ve seen kids decide after school Rugby that they’re not good enough, because they didn’t get on with their coach. Kids who I’ve coached and seen singlehandedly physically destroy other teams in club games. Kids whose parents want them to play. I’ve seen kids decide the rep program’s not worth the time or money for their parents, or themselves. These are kids from Rugby families, put off by politics and incompetence. I absolutely hate seeing this happen. Rugby’s supposed to be inclusive, and while we’ve seen progress in some areas, the traditional elitism that was supposedly vanquished is as strong as ever.
          .
          I agree, your program can be used both ways. I expect that, if schools were to use it, they’d use it solely for their focus of school enrolments through on field results. But I’d love to see clubs use it to better develop all players. Because if everyone’s playing with better technique and better understanding, we’re going to see everyone playing safer and more enjoyable football.
          .
          Good luck with it – I think it’s a really worthwhile program. :-)

        • JennyG

          Yes, yes, yes. Getting it wrong is costly as you say. I have first hand experience. My son played U6 – U10 at Club but never in an A or B side, yet always selected at fly half and kicker with success. After 2 years U13 – U14 at a private school and again never looked at for a top team, he nearly gave the game away, mostly because he wasn’t given the opportunity to show his skills wearing No. 10 and/or kicking. He then played in an undefeated (helped by his kicking skill) U15D team at school and the following year in the U16D team, he was the school’s leading goal kicker. Unfortunately, he was never considered any good nor given any opportunity to play in a higher team. Never knew why and now stays home with the other forms of entertainment you mention (wouldn’t dream of swapping codes).

  • Happyman

    Great read Brendan.
    I agree with you almost entirely. The kids as they get a bit older are quick to call you if you cannot back up your analysis.
    The use of video to show errors and how technique was executed cannot be overstated I always found it to be an excellent tool they can see errors and what they did wrong and can change it quickly but it is a double edged sword.
    As an example my son got dropped once and asked the coach why to which it he was told it was a lack of work rate. In older kids you need to have more nuance in explanations as they have a thirst to get better. He looked at the tape to find that he had made 24 tackle attempts and missed two so immediately the coach went down in his estimations as his work rate was good and he knew it. If the coach had told him he was too passive in his tackling and one of his missed tackles led to a try he would have maintained his authority and respect.

    • Brendon Shields

      Thats right Happyman. “your kid is shy to tackle” or “he is not good under the high ball” become problematic in an era where data informs most of our decisions. I often get players who wants to improve their tackling, yet selfsame players and parents never realized that their tackling was only an issue off the left shoulder. Nowhere in a kid’s development are things things picked up because we do not measure anything in detail yet.

      The average under 14B kid can push a lot harder for A team selection if everyone truly knew the parameters of acceptable performance. Again, if I get a poor mark in biology my teacher can point exactly to where I have to improve. For reasons explained above this is much harder to achieve in sport, but it does not mean we should not try.

  • James

    Unfortunately these days most schools pick their A teams on size. Being the biggest does not mean that they are the best player. School coaches should also make the effort to watch their players play club if they can. Club rugby is a lot different to the short 8 week school season.

    • Brendon Shields

      James I also have data that suggests club rugby is more dynamic. I think it’s because you dont have that all-out war approach to games as you get in schools. The ball is flung about more and teams attack with more variance.

    • JennyG

      Absolutely correct. I have first hand experience with this.

  • Mitch Leach

    This bookmark is “going straight to the pool room”. Excellent. Thank you. Will peruse the comments over the next few days for more great ideas and analysis!

  • Geoffro

    A good read mate.I cant help thinking about the way young athletes are developed in the US and the importance placed on sports programs through high school onto the college level and beyond.

  • Max Graham

    Great article!!

    • Brendon Shields

      Thanks Max!

  • Bert

    Great article! If I could share my experience. I have just joined the line of parents on the Saturday sideline at an overseas private school which had always done poorly at rugby.

    This season they won over 85% of their games, the difference was the coaches. They started employing senior league players to coach the teams. Instant result. All volunteers.

    The kids are now practicing meaningful drills and have a game plan sorted.
    Using clueless, often dispassionate, teachers to coach such a technical sport is crazy.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Nice article Brendan I can think of 2 reasons. Firstly the maths teacher is paid to do it and it’s his or her full time job. The coach is usually a volunteer doing it part time with other jobs as well. Secondly the kids future is more likely to rest on the academic results rather than the sports unless he or she is in the top 1% in which case it’s likely that measuring will be done

    • RugbyReg

      At the ‘elite’ level of schools rugby, the Director of Rugby would be paid full time and the Head Coach would be paid as well (at the 1st XV level). That’s QLD at least. Not sure about NSW etc

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Yeah but in how many schools is that? I’d guess that in most probably not

        • RugbyReg

          Pretty much everyone that is producing elite players.

  • JennyG

    Spot on. When my son played U6 – U8, we had a
    method of 2 parents (rotates each game) having a team list by number not name and placing a tick alongside the player each time he did a good thing, be it a pass/try/tackle/clean out/break and a cross for knock on/not passing/etc. This was tallied after each game for the ‘man of the match’ and at the end of the season for MVP. It wasn’t just about who had scored the try but included who had done what leading up to the try. In effect, a boy might get a tick for scoring a try but offset by a cross for a knock on which meant the opposition getting the ball and scoring. it also meant the fly-half (for example) would get a tick for getting the ball out for a try to be scored.

    In U13 – U14 my son played 2 years at school on what he learned at club rugby and gained no more experience, skills or knowledge. We couldn’t see either what other boys who had not played before were learning. He was (is) a great kicker but not because he was taught at school or practiced there – he did it himself at the local ground.

  • JennyG

    I have a posted a couple of comments in this thread but not sure how they appear. Hope they get read as I would love any comment/feedback.

  • JennyG

    Spot on. When my son played U6 – U8, we had a
    method of 2 parents (rotates each game) having a team list by number not name and placing a tick alongside the player each time he did a good thing, be it a pass/try/tackle/clean out/break and a cross for knock on/not passing/etc. This was tallied after each game for the ‘man of the match’ and at the end of the season for MVP. It wasn’t just about who had scored the try but included who had done what leading up to the try. In effect, a boy might get a tick for scoring a try but offset by a cross for a knock on which meant the opposition getting the ball and scoring. it also meant the fly-half (for example) would get a tick for getting the ball out for a try to be scored.

    In U13 – U14 my son played 2 years at school on what he learned at club rugby and gained no more experience, skills or knowledge. We couldn’t see either what other boys who had not played before were learning. He was (is) a great kicker but not because he was taught at school or practiced there – he did it himself at the local ground.

  • JennyG

    Yes, yes, yes. Getting it wrong is costly as you say. I have first hand experience. My son played U6 – U10 at Club but never in an A or B side, yet always selected at fly half and kicker with success. After 2 years U13 – U14 at a private school and again never looked at for a top team, he nearly gave the game away, mostly because he wasn’t given the opportunity to show his skills wearing No. 10 and/or kicking. He then played in an undefeated (helped by his kicking skill) U15D team at school and the following year in the U16D team, he was the school’s leading goal kicker. Unfortunately, he was never considered any good nor given any opportunity to play in a higher team. Never knew why and now stays home with the other forms of entertainment you mention (wouldn’t dream of swapping codes).

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