Create the Optimal Coaching Environment – Are problems skill based or due to a lack of game awareness
Skill Level or Game Awareness
Although any experienced coach or skill acquisition academic will see a players skill level and game awareness as intertwined, it is often a coaches fixation on technique that underpins any corrective coaching of kicking. So it is with this question that I challenged the coaching group.
If a player executes poorly in a game (or at training), he or she may have an issue with Game Awareness, rather than the skill itself.
There are often more factors contributing to poor execution than just poor technique. If we imagine treating a rash at the doctor, we are best treating the source, rather than the rash itself, right? So it is with kicking: tracing the source of the deficiency will allow for more effective coaching interventions..
It is fair to say that skill acquisition practitioners believe;
“improving game awareness is the best way to build skill execution”
This is where sound practice design will assist in this area, and I will address this later on.
SO… A simple way to determine whether it’s a skill issue or game awareness (DM) is to involve the player via some meaningful questioning. It’s important, before making a complete judgement, to gauge their perspective of the event, play, moment etc…
* What did you do?
* What did you see?
* What did you try to do?
These questions allow me to extract the most value out of any coachable moment, perhaps they could work for you too?
For identifying coachable moments is a truly rewarding concept if you are able to grasp the process that is essentially driven by the players
How Does Practice Design Affect The Outcomes Of A Coaching Session?
“Smooth Seas Don’t Make Skilful Sailors” – African Proverb
Please ponder the above mentioned quote in your own coaching context. How are you designing your sessions? For immediate success or for long term learning and retention? Learning, fortunately, is not a linear process. It’s messy.
If we are to develop adaptable players able to handle what varying match situations require, then you need to present chaos closely matched to those match requirements in practice.
I have written another article recently on the value of incorporating CHAOS via the use of kicking games at training. So I will put the detail to one side for now and emphasise some key takeaways:
For more helpful information on Practice Design Principles, I invite you to view the video link below in which I recently interviewed renowned Coach Scientist Mark Upton on the very subject. The key is for you to be honest with your current style, delivery and philosophy on practice. This will in turn allow you to discover the vast opportunities you have to improve the quality of player learning and ultimately PERFORMANCE.
Ideally your practice sessions should contain:
Mix it up, too much repetition of particular kick types will have well “drilled” players. But games aren’t like that. We don’t want them reciting movements as we need them to be adaptable to varying situations. Consider reducing decision making time, kicking with various ball types and playing 360 degree kicking games to build awareness.* Constraints – Set challenges and manipulate the rules. Such as field size, game time, type of kicks, shots, passes, which leg to kick, zones, defenders v attackers. The sky is the limit.
Understand the needs of your playing group. Age, Skill Level and body development will determine the type of practices (incl constraints). Remember, find that level and provide challenge. In fact I believe all practice sessions require a consequence to encourage growth.
Sounds obvious but often neglected.
Does it look and feel like part of a real match. Even if a broken down activity, if it’s not relevant to outcomes and processes, don’t offer it. You will just be wasting time. It took me a while to learn this. Much of my practice is reasonably simple now, with sharp observation of the factors that matter in making players better. What cues are the players getting in your sessions? Are they the same as the ones where decisions are required in a game. Be careful not to offer (much) static group work as this is not adding value to their improvement or skill maintenance.
Written by Stuart Lierich of Kick Coaching & Rugby Kicking Institue
Stuart Lierich is an internationally regarded “Specialist Rugby Kicking Coach” who has worked with clubs and programs at all levels of competition in Australia, Europe & Argentina.
Although active with junior rugby development, coaching at clubs and schools, Stuart has also worked with professional clubs such as Glasgow Warriors, Edinburgh Rugby (Euro Pro12) and (UK Superleague) teams Wigan Warriors, Widnes Vikings and Castleford Tigers as well as contribute to the Australian Rugby Union Talent Pathway, Melbourne Storm NRL Academy and is currently coaching Racing Metro star Juan Martin Hernandez.