Cuddles not Team Huddles
The team huddle photo has become the stuff of legend… team-mates shoulder to shoulder, white knuckles afraid to let go and a sweaty smoke rising from the discussive fire.
It bookends and pervades the modern game. This season, I have seen every team without fail satisfy their own habit and the supporters’ expectation after the final whistle come rain or shine and often well into the evening.
What’s the purpose?
Often, it’s the coach’s agenda…
- ‘Creating a ‘crisis’ in the warm up for a team that might have under-estimated their opponents and are not yet ‘up for it’.
- Post-match an autopsy of a defeat, players head down in ‘feeling’ mode while nervous loved ones watch on deciding whether to wait around, try and attract attention or, worse still, smile.
Sometimes, it’s player led…
- In the game, the forwards gather pre-lineout to formulate a plan irrespective of the opponent’s lineout defence and without the consultation of the back line…. ‘tank call, can’t trust the backs anyway!’
- Under the posts, an important conversation about a problem that could have been solved just thirty seconds earlier had someone thought about providing that information in the moment. Two players absent as they try to charge the kick down.
So… some questions about your team’s huddles in training and in games?
- Do we need one?
- If so, what impact am I hoping for?
- Do I need to be in the huddle for this to be the case?
- Do I need to get everyone in a circle to achieve this?
- Do I need to stop everyone moving to achieve this?
- If yes to the last three, do I need to be directive or ask questions?
- If it’s a question, do I need an answer?
- If it’s directive, am I using jargon? How long will it take?
- Is answering questions and talking in a huddle increasing learning more than playing the game?
- Was everyone engaged?
- Why was Freddie counting blades of grass?
- If I asked every player what was the purpose of the huddle, would they all say the same thing?
- Are we still really stood in a huddle?
- It’s been almost ten minutes now. Have we achieved anything? Will this translate to learning on the pitch?
- Do kids play rugby on a Sunday morning to stand in a huddle listening to me?
- What’s the impact? Am I creating reliance among players on me to call huddles?
- Am I developing a group of players who talk about solutions after the event rather than solving them in action on the pitch?
- Have I really spent enough time thinking about the purpose of this huddle?
- Did I actually need to call a huddle?
What does your team discuss in a huddle? Is it player or coach led? Can you answer the questions posed by Russell?