I think coaches can learn a great deal by recognizing the lessons which can be learned from other coaches and other sports. Rugby is an “Invasion” sport just like soccer with one team invading the other team’s territory in the pursuit of goals, or in rugby “tries”. Soccer is an “invasion focus” game wherein points are scored when the ball goes into a small goal – basketball is an “invasion focus” sport also. Rugby points are scored by running the ball over a field wide line as in American football. No matter what category the sports fall into the methods of motivating and managing players are very similar – athletes are human beings and human beings, basically, react to interactions the same way. In many ways the “Pedagogy” of rugby and soccer are similar. One coach who stands out in rugby, at the moment, is the new England National Team coach Eddie Jones. Jones is an Australian with quite a coaching pedigree. He has led England to an undefeated 2016, winning against some of the top teams in world rugby.
In an interview with some of his players here is how they categorized the principles the coach has used;
- Creation of competition amongst the players fighting, in games and practices, for their positions.
- The coaching staff tell the players “exactly” what their role is in the game.
- Superb fitness. The creation of a fitness culture wherein; “You are either fit or you are not.”
- Jones acts as a +1 in practice controlling the position of the ball and creating numerous scenarios for the players to react to. Lots of small sided games.
- Intensity in training – No down time – No unnecessary talking – No meandering - players are engaged and run to water breaks etc.
- Everything is on the clock. No extra running is needed due to the intensity of practices.
- Jones spends lots of time mingling and bantering with the players off the field in, appropriate, social situations.
- Everything is monitored and assessed. Charts on everything.
- Getting knocked down is a big part of rugby. Emphasis on speed of recovery to get back on feet when knocked over.
- Feedback on Saturday’s game will be on Monday.
- Emphasis on being #1. How hard you need to work to be #1. Identification and vilification of players Jones thinks have coasted in a specific game or practice.
- Play each game as it comes. Don’t get too far ahead in your thinking.
- Develop winning habits – e.g. reviewing successful games and outlining what can have been done better.