Rest and Relaxation at Brocks RFC! 

There is nothing better than working hard to achieve your goals and targets. Last night we spent the evening working particularly hard on some constraints based games. Two touch down was a great one to develop exceptional communication (not unacceptable) and more importantly using our clickers we set goals for some of the players as we went along. Adding the ticking LED clock to the side of the field has made a huge difference too!!

So that was it, session over debrief was had and it was some time for R&R.

Now rest and relaxation doesn't need to be a spa! We have taken the whole team swimming before, played rugby golf and rugby tennis. But the boys favourite by far is Swissball Volleyball! 

As you can see the head bands are on and it all gets a little competitive, losing team had a forfeit. I will keep that between me and the players.

Please watch, share and leave a comment! What do you do for your players as R&R? In my opinion. It's just as important! 

Grow brains

What is a growth mindset? Well what better way to explain this than show you with this picture? 

So it's a process of keeping your mind "open" and therefore more likely to grow. 
This site has some excellent information in regards to growth mindset. 

This article shows growth research on children who undertook their SATS

I first heard about growth mind set from Class Dojo and they have created some awesome resources and videos explaining in a child friendly way. These clips are worth watching:


So how can you apply this to your players on your session on a Sunday morning? 

Use the growth mindset as a great model for developing people not players! As the players get older in my experience, players (and parents) get very focussed on what position they play. Use the principles of play and more importantly judge your players development and progress with the amount of smiles you see. 

Thats it folks! pre season is gone for another year and not a drill insight!

Thats it folks! pre season is gone for another year and not a drill insight! 

So thats it all that hard work over the summer should have prepared the team for a productive season! I've read so any books and listened to lots of podcasts to keep me professionally topped up. But a few books absolutely stand out (I will post a reading list later). The quote I have lived by for the last few years is below:

Mr Wooden is an inspiration,  I've taken so much from his books over the last 5 years and I personally would say that every coach (and teacher for that matter) should be given his books to read before they undertake any coaching / teaching course.

I listen to a number of podcasts, one is the talent equation which is excellent, the other is the rugby coaches corner and more recently the way of champions. They have all informed my practice and not so long ago the creator of the talent equation shared an article,  he wrote that giving up drills was very difficult for coaches. 

This is so true and I have first hand experience of this.

So back to pre season, we haven't touched a drill for months, just games, adapted games, chaos and Head bands! Even when we did come close to a catching drill - the players managed to make it into a high intensity game. 

We had three pre season games each set with differing levels of challenge. Each game we set an attacking target and a defensive target. Each target challenged the players as a team and during the games we set specific targets for certain players.

So the last game attacking target was: Score three tries from cross-field kicks, challenging to say the least. It got even more challenging when we lost our ten to a pot hole! Now at this point we could of scrapped the target. But inline with our CARDS we stuck at it. Now what I have learned recently, using the constraints based coaching model, a time limit always mixes things up! So we kept at and after 5 attempts (including a cross-field from a prop) we got it! Success!

As a coach do you challenge yourself? are you using cards - TGFU has been an approach that I have been using for a number of years, but I've always felt it had something missing and executed poorly it can be ineffective.

Four seasons ago I undertook coaching under 16s, I wanted to attempt to develop a programme for developing players and not results. This was met with some resistance. 

So here are my top tips for undertaking a programme of constraints coaching:

1, Be transparent - parents, other coaches, club officials and players - sit them all down, present what you are intending on doing and show them the why and the how. Make sure they are clear that what you are doing is developing players and the points will look after themselves. 

2, When facing resistance ask this question: "What can I do to help you buy into this?" - What can I do to show you what the purpose is?" You are going to face resistance - even if you sit down with all the parties involved. Unfortunately no one likes change and I have even experienced under 16s players asking why we are not doing drills. But do not give up - when I tried to implement it a few years ago even though I explained to all what was happening I still had one parent that was very destructive. As far as he was concerned the boys should have been hitting lots of pads and standing in a line waiting on a Sunday morning.

3, Set your season outcomes! What do you want the players to achieve at the end of the season and do not be tempted to write win all games or win all cups. Player development is not judged on the trophy cabinet. Its judged on smiles and a learning environment. Now lets be clear I am not stating that competition is no good and it should all be taken away, I'm just saying that when the players are 25 no one will care if they won the under 16s cup and that little bit of plastic really does not mean that much when it comes to player development. 

4, Coach to the Principles of Play and maintain the core values! Our game is unique, it can be life changing in so many ways. Coach the principles of play which are:

Contest Pressure
Go forward

Use these and get the players to really understand what they mean.

Additionally refer to CARDS when working on your sessions - How are you enabling creativity during this game?

So there you go - they are my top tips.

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Preseason that isnt Preseason

Lets talk pre season - preseason is often a 8 week period of hard work, players fear pre season, but should it be that way? I dont think so. Preseason should be about fitness, burning off those excesses of the summer - but should it be all about fitness, fitness and more fitness?

Dont get me wrong I am a big supporter of fitness, this is not a post about not working hard. This preseason I have tried to implement a new approach called "secret fitness". I wanted to challenge myself and the players that I coach to undertake their fitness but move away from the normal (run ways, circuits and suicides) that are often used. Previous mistakes I have made was overtraining the players which lead to injuries further into the season, not introducing the ball until 6 weeks in and using questionable techniques that had no real measurable tools. This was my doing at a previous club.

So this is how I started, I mind mapped what I wanted the players to look like at the end of the preseason and the end of the entire season, I used CARDS (See RFU and Russell Earnshaw for this inspirational approach) to really challenge the coaching approach. We wanted to really encourage the players to take ownership of their performance and we decided on a set of "skills" that they wanted to improve on.

We use a Games for Understanding approach (G4U) with constraints to really challenge them.

So once we decided the skills and what we wanted the players to look like we decided to develop the concept of "secret fitness". What would this look like? Basically lots of chaos related high intensity games, not just games of Rugby - but lots and lots of different games. We saw a football game called three sided football and developed this into what we called Hexagon touch.
This really challenge the players and instead of player football we played touch, the players created the rules once we had set out some basic ones. They came up with some crackers. 

Ok ok I can hear you all saying but how is that "secret fitness" we added in when you make a tackle you must retreat to your tryline, this created two things: 1, space and 2 "secret fitness". The players loved it, it challenged them to think quickly and make decisions under pressure, in a purposeful context and whilst fatiguing. 

Whilst this was going on we started to add in some constraints:
I challenge you to make 10 tackles in 4mins
How many different ways can you show me that you can go forwards in the next 5 mins.
Plus many more! 

This is well and good I hear you say, but is this "Improvement" measurable? well we come across the Bronco test, we have record the scores for the whole pre season - bear in mind we are an amateur team, every player has managed to beat their times consistently. Apart from the bank holiday weekend! 

Our team focus was split between attack and defence, then we have 3 weeks to knit it all together, which also runs alongside our 3 pre season games. 

What we have also been doing is filming the training sessions and sharing them with the players.

So far, we have seen improvements, at the end of sessions we try to get the players to vote for three things:
Attacking moment of the session
Defence moment of the session 
Best moment overall of the session

So there you go, no circuits - secret fitness and loads of games! our first game is tomorrow, I cant wait to see how may different strands of CARDS the players can show me and the coaching team! 

Until next time!

The first post! 

Firstly welcome to the Blog! its been something I've been meaning to do for a while and its finally happened!

Follow us for updates, thoughts and mumblings from me and other coaches within the grassroots game. 

So here we go....Talk to me!