Skilful Coaching required at every club


Digital pic by Robb Cox Action Photographics
Digital pic by Robb Cox Action Photographics

I watched Souths defeat Parra yesterday with some horror. I actually have a passion for both clubs so I wasn’t passionate about the winning or losing but more where they are both headed as footy clubs right now.

There is so much not right with Parra, and has been for some time, that it’s not my intention to solve that here even if I thought I could to assist all my wonderful Parra friends and supporters. Rather one incident caught my eye late in the game that I would like to expand on.  It was not going to change the result but it exploded in my head that with a chance to score late in the game with just one simple pass near Souths goal line a try was to be had. Finish on a nice positive note at least.

Darcy Lussick was the man in the hot seat, but it could well have been so many other players in his team and many other teams in the NRL. Recently Titans front rower  Brenton Lawrence burst into the clear looking like a talented outside back with pace to burn. Unfortunately he looked a whole lot different to that description when he had no idea how to pass to any one of the 3 or 4 supports. Why does this happen?

It stands out even more when we see other players find passes and catches seemingly so much easier. Talent I hear you say? Well yes if we are talking some of the very top end skills like Gallen, Bird and Sonny Bill Williams display so well. But surely not when we are talking relatively simple catch and pass to an unmarked support. It’s my belief from watching many games of touch pre-training that there are very very few players in the NRL who do not have the basic skills I am talking about. In fact most would amaze you – when the pressure is off!

Too many players are being coached into a paranoid state about making errors in possession or at least not being offered the opportunities to show and develop what they could do under pressure. That all starts at training and to be fair to Ricky Stuart and other NRL coaches it should start in the very junior days of every player.

Many very talented players in the NRL have graduated through their junior footy despite and perhaps because of making errors but learning from those errors two things:

  • How to create play with a skilful mindset – the successful moments (what to do)
  • How to not create errors with skilful decision making – the unsuccessful moments  (what not to do)

You can’t really get the first of these two aspects if the coach does not set this as his playing and training philosophy for all players no matter what position.

You can’t get the second one without trying the first.

This all requires coaching by junior and then senior coaches who share a similar philosophy – to permit, no develop an improving and eventually high level of skills in players through continuous decision making activities in training simulated to be game-like without fear of serious retribution.  In fact in this environment there id no failure as the player is learning from both the successful and unsuccessful !

Coming through “the other side” (a successful performance of the skill) or even making an error (unsuccessful performance of skill or decision of when or what skill to perform) have great value to the developing player. The Talent Code, a book all coaches should read, outlines the importance of how the brain works in correcting performance. It tells us that scientifically we lay myelin differently in the brain if we continually practice and re-practice after failure. Coaches should not be concerned with errors (especially in training) if the player is developing and extending his skill set and re-practicing over and over as the storage of that skill in his brain is going to be there for him when he needs it most – in the same situation, under game pressure if he has practiced this way.

Digital pic by Robb Cox Action Photographics

Digital pic by Robb Cox Action Photographics

If your team appears limited in its attack at present this is likely the problem; players without the confidence to come up with that skill to undo their opponents rather than simply “the coach hasn’t given them the right plan”. And it spreads. Look at the skills more of the Roosters players exhibit when SBW starts the ball rolling. The big Kiwi has a mindset of super confidence and that sure makes a difference to his teammates play. He doesn’t pass them the ball only he passes on CONFIDENCE.

It’s not hard to see the Rabbits are well down their track with Coach Michael Maguire. The style and each player’s role in that style are clearly evident to all. It’s all very disciplined and very physical. It’s working. But a word of warning jumps into my head when I watch teams with a big emphasis of the physical. One day in this league they will meet another team that matches them in the physical.

That’s when the unprepared coach hopes that the talent factor comes in. Brisbane Broncos of the past couple of decades played physically to compete and then the genius that was Langer and Walters and later Lockyer, took over. Ditto Newcastle with bruising forward pack and the A Johns factor! What happens when the genius passes on – in Rabbits case, Inglis? Or if he is just injured on GF day.

The Rabbits are well and truly in a different situation to the Eels currently. But in that scary moment that GFs tend to deliver will each player in this mighty disciplined and physically dominant team be able to assess and execute that one off chance to win the big one?

There is always work to be done for every coach in every club if his goal is to develop the skill and decision making of each and every player in his crew.