How Coaching Courses Killed Coaching

By | May 16, 2018

Unscrambling the Egg: How Coaching Courses Killed Coaching.

Recently I was asked to facilitate a workshop with the national coach development managers from many of the national sporting organisations in a particular nation. I asked them to bring their entry-level coach education resource or level-1 coaching courses manual to the workshop.

At the commencement of the workshop, I asked them to open their coach education manuals to the first page and to put a red line through anything that could be accessed on the internet for free and immediately. Over the next 20 minutes, the national coach development managers would effectively “red-line” more than 90% of the content of their manuals.

I then posed the following challenge to them: “Now ask yourself. Why would I – as a coach wanting to learn about coaching…and get better at coaching – why would I pay for and attend one of your coaching courses when 90% of what you’re going to teach me is available free and conveniently on the net?”

If we keep conducting coaching courses based on sports science, this is where we’ll end up – no coaches……

During another recent engagement with a national sporting organisation, I asked a group of coach developers who regularly organise, manage and conduct coaching courses, “What are the key qualities a successful coach must have?”

A group brainstorm produced concepts such ascommitment,” “dedication,” “vision,” “passion,” “empathy,” “creativity,” “compassion,” “connection” and a long, long list of similar, values, virtues and character traits.

I then asked them to open the training manuals they use at their coaching courses and their coach-development resources, and underline anywhere in the manuals where these words – where these values – where these coaching qualities – are mentioned, and where there’s a clear way to develop them in the coaches attending their training courses.

My comment was, “If you guys know what coaching is all about, and you know what it takes to be a successful coach – and you’re not teaching any of these critical concepts in your coach development programs – what the hell are you actually doing?”

Unscrambling the Egg Part 2: Stop Running Coaching Courses!!!! They’re Killing Your Coaches. Coaches ARE the key.

They ARE the sport because it is the coach who is the connection to – who has the relationship with – who delivers the sports experience for – kids, families, participants and competitors. You need outstanding coaches for your sport to flourish. If your sport is struggling right now and you’re trying to figure out how you’ll survive in the future, look no further than your coaches and to the standard of coaching being delivered in the pools, the courts, the fields, the gyms and the tracks around your nation.

Coaching today is very different to what it was ten ago. Then – coaching courses were based on the “what” you needed to know to be a coach. Coaching courses were full of sports science, exercise physiology, biomechanics, skill acquisition, sports psychology, sports nutrition etc. etc.

Why? Because it was relatively difficult to get access to quality information on these topics – at least to access the information in coach “friendly” formats.

Now coaches all over the world can access anything, anytime, anywhere – and usually for free – in the palm of their hands on their smart phones and tablets. It is pointless – it is a waste of everyone’s time and energy – to conduct coaching courses based on sports science. It is just not necessary in this era – to spend hours and hours delivering content heavy sports science based coaching courses to coaches who:
A. Can get that information anytime and anywhere they choose;
B. Don’t need it.

But more importantly, coaching – unless you’re working with elite athletes at the highest levels of sport – is NOT about sports science.

We’ve become so intent and so focused on teaching coaches the science of sport and about the “pathway” theory of competitive sport that we’ve forgotten something so basic – so simple – yet so important that it’s killing coaches and coaching and contributing to the significant decline in competitive sport all over the world….
We forgot to teach coaches how to coach!

Kids and parents do not choose to join a tennis Club because the coach knows a lot about physiology. Kids and parents do not choose to connect with a Football Club because the coach has outstanding video analysis skills and a Masters in biomechanics. Kids and parents are seeking quality experiences delivered by passionate, enthusiastic, caring coaches.

They’re looking for coaches who’ll create positive, enjoyable, interesting and engaging sports experiences for them – based on their, i.e. the kids’ and the parents’ specific needs.

Let’s Save Our Coaches. Competitive sport all over the world is dying.
Coaches are the one group of people within sport who can save it.

But they can’t save it unless we give them the tools to perform the rescue. And the tools they need are not learning more about mitochondria, how to draw a Yerkes-Dodson curve or how to spell A.T.P. We can save competitive sport. We can grow sport and make it a vitally important and relevant aspect of society for the next 100 years. But it begins and ends with coaches and coaching.

From Australian Swim Coach Wayne Goldsmith

Playing the Percentages in Attack

By | April 8, 2018

There are fundamentals in the playing of rugby that have to be played to in order to provide the basis of building a win or at least a result that is as good as the team can expect to achieve. These are the fundamentals of play that give the team a purpose for their play.

When teams are unable to impose these on their opponents they are forced to take risks in the hope that this will not expose them to error that their opponents can exploit.


Possession and Field Position

The basis of this is possession. The retention of possession, the patience to keep possession, to play over the gain line, and to create forward momentum so that, with patience, pressure will build.

The weakness here is that it is difficult to play run/ pass options while at the same time gain field position so that the two components of possession and field position can exert pressure.

So let say we try to retain possession but find that this doesn’t result in field position so we have to revert to kicking the ball down the field, with the risk of losing possession.

It is here that homework has to be done giving the kicking team at least an equal opportunity to retain possession.

Kick Options

Of the kicks we have the recoverable ones.

The ball carrier holding the defender, attacking the space between the two defenders and, in accepting the tackle on the inside leg dropping the ball on the outside leg, while in the gap and grubber kicking a recoverable ball so that the players further along the attack line can run onto and recover the ball. The advantage is that these players can run straight onto the ball while their defenders have to turn to recover the ball, which takes more time.

Realize that the grubber kick is not made into a “picket fence” of opponent’s legs resulting in a rebound.

A chip kick can be recoverable but, because the ball is in the air and is available for a longer period of time, it is more difficult to recover.

The up-and-under or box kick is being frequently used, especially by the #9. The kick needs enough hang time on it to make it recoverable. This hang time should be about 8 seconds enabling the blind side wing, amongst others, to contest the ball. Running chest on to the ball can result in the ball being caught but the better option is to come from the side. This enables the jumper/ catcher to turn back on to the opposition as they jump for the ball so that, even if it is not caught, the ball is deflected back to support players.

The box kick can be made for territory while #10 can kick down the field to the left or the right backed by a chase pattern and a receipt pattern to field a return kick. Both kicks should be contestable close to a touchline so that the opposition does not have both left and right options in counter attack.

#12 has the same options with the most likely one being a “wipers” kick behind the open side wing who is drawn forward because of the threat of the ball being passed to a third and fourth receiver.

Supporting The Kick Option

All of these require a chase pattern from set pieces of up to 5 players. From scrum #’s 6, 7,12,13 and the near wing and from lineout #’s 2, 7,12,13 and the near wing. They chase in an arrowhead formation identifying who is defending who with the intention of tackling the ball carrier to the ground, even if it takes 2 defenders, so the ball is contestable.

Because of the likelihood of opponents making a return kick, kicking duals that put a premium on patience often result and it is essential to have a receipt group. From scrum and lineout #’s 8, 9, 10, far wing and 15.

By reloading and positioning across the field the receipt group can use the overlap to gain territory while, if the defence is grouped the receipt group can run at the group to hold them there and pass away from them. Run at the city and pass to the country.

Problems are created should the kicking dual result in players being out of position. While it will take some practice a way of solving this is for players, in what would be the set piece positions, from the post tackle/ ruck fulfilling these roles and letting teammates know what they are doing.

So we have teams playing for field position determined to build on this by regaining possession.

Contesting The Ball

If the ball remains in play the ball carrier must be tackled to the ground to make the ball contestable.

I believe the reward from a high tackle creating a maul and a turnover at the scrum, offers limited returns and risks over-commitment at the maul reducing the numbers in the defence line should the ball be re-cycled.

At the post tackle the need to retain possession often leads to the attack over-committing at the post tackle. These players often go to ground, those who do so in defence are penalized but those who do so in attack are given greater license.

So back to the attack, the speed of commitment at a second, third, fourth and fifth tackle will get less and less because they have to get off the ground. The defence on the other hand, join the defence line, tackle low to make the ball playable and, when attacking numbers are down and personnel not as expert, the post tackle can allow the defence to dominate at the counter ruck by binding and driving through the line of the ball to regain possession.

Counter Attack From the Turnover

This sets up a counter attack opportunity. It has been practice to move the ball away from the turnover by at least 2 passes before going forward. Current practice would indicate this allows the defence time to regroup in the defence line and a better prospect is to immediately go forward using linear support to exploit the delay in the defensive team’s transition time from attack to defence.

Limiting Options at Set Piece

Of course homework has to be done into the opponent’s scrum and lineout. Scrum tactics, especially on the opposition’s throw in, are a matter of doing the less expected and lulling them into a false sense of security. The ref has a part in this as so often the dominant scrum become the victim of their own dominance and there is no point in moaning.

While analysis of the opposition line-out can lead to strategies to reduce their options and, maybe, regain the ball I believe a standard strategy you take to each game, improve on with each game, is a good option.

What I favour is to put pressure on the thrower to over throw. This can be achieved by having a one man lift at 1 in the line-out or a two player lift at 2 using 1 and 3: at 3 using 2 and 4:at 4 using 3 and 5 or at 5 using 4 and 6. Putting your best-unassisted jumper at 7 with the regular 7 at 6 to be in a position to go chasing the ball.

The player at the tail needn’t leap for the ball. It is often better to back-up and take the ball while still on the ground to mount a run/ pass attack.

Now let’s think about attacking from within their territory so pressure from both field position and possession can be exerted. 

Set Piece Attack

Because numbers are equal there is an opportunity to penetrate from set piece.

The following points are worth considering from scrum and line-out:

  • Use the power of a superior scrum to push the opposition and the ball over the goal line where the ball is forced to score.
  • Moving the scrum so the opposition is turned away from the side of the attack limiting the number of defenders.
  • Use of the #8 as the first ball carrier so you have an extra attacker.
  • From the lineout use the maul and roll the maul infield to commit the close in defenders. From here the backs can use the ball or ball carriers can peel off the maul and run at the retreating defenders.
  • Another option is to use the peel from delivery at the end of the lineout from the tail-end catcher to a forward who runs into the midfield.
  • Have the attack line standing deep enough to accelerate onto the ball at pace threatening the defence. In so doing each attacking player draws a defender to hold them and open up both left and right options around the defender.
  • Recreate the attacking space. Having taken up the space between the attack and defence the passer must pull the back to recreate the space for the receiver who must retain depth so this player can threaten the defender.
  • Should the defender get out of position the ball carrier can attack the space on the left or the right.
  • A miss match between the ball carrier and defender will allow the ball carrier to penetrate.
  • Each attacker in the line should be used to prevent the defence from drifting to help the attack elsewhere.
  • The placement of the attackers in the line should be spread so that the space between each defender is maximized. This is based on each attackers passing ability especially with the left hand. This enables players, usually #15 and the blind-side wing, should the ball go to the open side, to enter the space between 2 defenders. The penetrator should enter late so that it is unexpected and should enter close to the ball carrier, entering off the hip. This means that the ball carrier’s defender is held and the next attacker out wide holds the next defender.
  • The use of the blind side seldom occurs, apart from using the #8 and #9 going from left to right. The art of #10 using the blind-side is a lost art but it can still be performed.
  • The basics are #10 initially stands flat and wide on the open side to bring the defensive line forward. #10 then runs on a sharp angle right to left close to the scrum. The pass from #9 is only 1-2metres wide so that when #10 receives the ball the angle is so sharp s/he is running away from the loose forwards and immediately over the gain line.
  • Other options are to establish an attacking formation that confuses the defence so that a channel is overloaded by more attackers than defenders.
  • Examples of this are #’s 10, 12 and 13 flat and close, inside the near goal post from the lineout and #’s 11, 14 and 15 in the remaining width of the field.
  • AND a front line of #’s 10, 12 and 13 with one other back directly behind them, let’s say 11 behind 10, 15 behind 12 and 14 behind 13. This allows 11 to enter between the halfback and 10, 11 and 15 between 10 and 12, 15 and 15 between 12 and 13 and 14 outside 13. It can mean that there is 4 attacking players are attacking 2 defending players.

Phase Play Attack.

Now that play has restarted it can be unlikely that the attack will penetrate given that defence from set pieces can be planned as these situations occur regularly.

As a result an attack has to be built using a number of phases. Each post tackle phase, both ruck and maul, can be used to recreate space because the defensive line cannot advance ahead of the hindmost foot.

It is essential to get support to the post tackle so that possession is retained and the ball recycled quickly so the defence is unable to recover as they have to go back before going forward again.

But prior to this the ball carrier should look to pass to a support player in a better position to continue play. If these support players are across the field there is a problem in modern day rugby.

This is because at the post tackle the defence makes sure they complete the tackle but the commitment of additional players is much less.

This is because the way the game is refereed concedes an advantage to the attack to keep the ball.

This results in the attack committing more players to keep the ball while the defence minimizes their commitment and will continue to do so until there is a clear advantage to regain the ball.

This means that the defence line usually outnumbers the attack line and passes made across the field can lead to an intercept or many tacklers tackling the ball carriers.

A better alternative is for support to be linear directly behind the ball carrier. In evading the tackler when the ball carrier goes left, taking the tackle in the same direction, space is created on the right, where the ball carrier has moved from, and the ball can be passed to a player in this space.

This similarly occurs when the ball carrier goes to the right.

So long as they retain their depth and so long as the passer makes a sympathetic pass that is easy to catch, any number of players can provide support down the channel to score.

Should a tackle be made when any ball carrier is tackled an offside line is created giving the attack the space between the defending team’s off sideline and the positioning of the attacking line. It is unlikely this will be as close to the gain line as passes have to be backward.

Currently the attack line is standing as close to the gain line as they can.

This has led to the attack picking up the ball and charging to get over the gain line or receiving one pass and, with little momentum, trying to do the same thing. So often the ball carrier receives the ball and the tackler at the same time. Close to the goal line just getting over the gain line maybe all the attack needs.

What is more likely is that the defence is drawn in and there is an overlap in the attacking line so that passes and recoverable kicks can lead to a try.

Further from the try line greater defensive numbers leads to the attack having some depth but not much more and using 1 and maybe 2 pass attacks to crash the gain line in an effort to build some momentum over the gain line.

With the defence unwilling to risk post tackle infringement and not committing players to contest the ball the attack can retain possession for many phases while the defence can stand on their offside line, closer to the gain line than the attack and, by retaining their formation make tackles until the chance for a turnover arises.

As a result the defence just has to move up to make a tackle and then reload and re-align in formation for the ball to come back along the attack line where they might have to tackle.

Of use can be the grouping of the defence close to the ball to create an overlap wide out, that the attack should use, but by far the better attack is to use linear support by exploiting a mismatch as well as overloading a channel.

This is seldom used.

And don’t forget the maul in general play that, for some reason, is little used. Too often the maul is ignored perhaps because it is “dull” rugby but we need to consider the basis of rugby’s form of attack.

In rugby league the aim is for one-off runners to get over the gain line and to recycle the ball quickly enough to maintain the momentum.

Of course the defence aims to stop the ball carrier before the gain line and to gang tackle with enough players to delay the recycle depending on what the referee will tolerate.

Rugby union conforms to these tactics as the refereeing enables the attack to retain the ball, even when attacking players are on the ground and should be out of play. The same tolerance is not shown to the tackler and other defensive players on the ground. With attacking players on the ground around the ball the defenders are expected to support themselves and have no knee on the attacking players on the ground. They must enter through the “gate” i.e. from directly behind the ball and for some reason they are not encouraged to bind and drive through the line of the ball.

In fact by definition rucks seldom exist, there is no offside line and the defence can stand next to the attack. But this is ignored and even the ball carrier and the tackler are assumed to be a ruck. Rugby is worse off because of this and the game is losing its formation and its mode of play.

The easier it is to retain possession the less the reward in time and space. So long as there is no contest this will be the case.

So the post tackle and the ruck do not draw the defence in to contest the ball and the reward for retaining possession sadly reflects the ease with which this can be done giving the attack less time and space and a defensive line that outnumbers the attack.

So linear support can be used as well as the maul.

A correctly formed maul, duplication the formation of a scrum with the ball back from the line of contact can be used to go forward and draw the defence in creating time and space for the attack. What seems to put the attack off forming a maul is the potential for a scrum turnover. So long as forward momentum is maintained, plus run and pass options peeling off the maul and resetting the maul after this, to go again, there need not be a problem.

So this is how I see the way successful teams and why teams that ignore the priority of field position and who don’t cherish possession can struggle are currently playing the game. But don’t look at the All Blacks. Will it bite them in the bum one day?

Game Sense – V

By | January 10, 2018

Learning to sustain attention – to concentrate – is extremely important.  As mentioned previously, you may find that stilling the mind is helpful.  You can worry or think about other things later.  At this particular moment you must direct your attention to a specific task.  You can also repeat the number grid task described earlier as a concentration exercise.  Just start at a different number each time.  Finally, any imagery that you do will help improve your ability to concentrate.  Imagery is in fact, a form of concentration.

There are some additional ways you can improve your ability to concentrate.  Try the following activities to bolster your concentration skills:

  • Performing the stork stand
  • Taking a concentration ride.

Exercise 13 – Stork Stand


Find a spot away from chairs, tables, or anything else that could be hazardous if you were to fail.  In addition, remove jewellery or glasses that might be damaged.

Begin by standing and putting all of your weight on one leg.  Place your arms out to the sides at shoulder level, and gradually raise your free leg.  Keep that leg close to the ground so that you can use it to regain your balance should you start to fall.  When you are comfortable, close your eyes and try to maintain your balance.  The trial is over when you either open your eyes or touch your free foot to the ground.  Time each  trial and record how long you are able to maintain your balance for each of three trials.

Trial 1_____________________________________________________

Trial 2_____________________________________________________

Trial 3_____________________________________________________

Your initial trials will probably be fairly short.  Try the exercise again.  This time, before you close your eyes, notice the physical or kinaesthetic cues you can use to maintain your balance.  Concentrate on those cues as you close your eyes and repeat the experience.  Record your balancing success for an additional three trials.


Trial 2______________________________________________________

Trial 3______________________________________________________

Did the cueing help your concentration?


As you become more able to sustain the stork stand, start adding some challenges to your concentration.  Turn on a radio, stereo or television to provide distraction, or have someone talk to you as you try to balance.  Work to maintain your concentration on the cues you need.

Alertness and Concentration

Of course part of being able to concentrate is being able to concentrate for the entire duration of your event.  That is relatively easier if you are involved in a sprint event, but extremely difficult if you are running in a marathon.  In lengthy events or those with breaks in the action, you also need to learn to concentrate, then relax, then make yourself concentrate again.  You must mentally pace yourself.  You must be alert, yet conserve psychic energy.

Regardless of the length of your event, you can enhance your ability to concentrate appropriately by planning and learning how long you will have to maintain you concentration.  Tom Kubistant (1986) suggests training concentration by involving yourself in a different activity for a length of time that matches the length of time you will need to concentrate.  The idea behind this practice is that you will gradually increase the length of time you are able to concentrate on any particular activity. Kubistant suggests taking long bike rides in the country for the length of time of your event.  If you aren’t a cyclist, try a drive in the country.  But do not allow yourself the luxury of turning on a radio.  Just try to concentrate on the activity.  Try out a concentration ride!

Exercise 14 – Concentration Ride

The purpose of this exercise is to accustom yourself to conserving psychic energy and concentrating for the duration of an event.


Select an alternative activity to take the place of rugby refereeing.  Generally a ride or a walk will be best.  Besides, it’s good exercise!  No radio or friendly chatter is allowed.  Just concentrate on the activity.  Perform your alternative activity for the length of time your sport normally takes.  If you have a halftime break, stop your alternative activity for that 10 minutes and then resume.  We want your concentration practice to simulate the real competitive situation.  When you have completed the exercise, answer the following questions.

Did your alternative event simulate the time involved in your sport effectively?
If not, what were the differences?




Do you feel that you conserved your psychic energy yet concentrated on the activity?



Describe your experience…




An additional strategy, of course, is to have a trial competition in which you reproduce the conditions of competition and try to sustain your concentration throughout.  While this strategy might be the most fruitful, it is sometimes not possible. Can you imagine practicing refereeing a complete football or basketball game once each week?  The time taken away from developing other important concepts may be prohibitive.  However, you can analyse rugby for its logical breaks in action and the accompanying breaks in concentration that are necessary.  You can set aside time at each practice to work on concentration by not interrupting play for those lengths of time.  Think about how you could use this strategy in refereeing your sport.

Pre-event Routines

Routines can be extremely helpful in encouraging concentration.  Many players and referees use the pre-event routine to create a mind set for themselves.  The routine signals a focus of attention required for their sport.

Part Three – Practice Phase

This phase of developing your attentional skills is quite similar to the process required to practice other psychological skills.  You will need to perform the exercises described in the acquisition phase systematically to ensure progress. Further, it will be most beneficial to incorporate your attentional skill practice into the practice sessions for your sport.  Modify any of the exercises to make them more specific.  In addition, you should design your own exercises based on your understanding of rugby coaching.  But most importantly, use them systematically.

Again, you will need to devise a way to record progress and practice.  The records you keep can be informative and will serve as a motivator when you notice that you are indeed making progress.

Exercise 15 – Recoding Your Progress

Activities:  Selective attention, shifting attention, concentration
Sample logbook page for recording attentional skill.


Review the logbook page set out below.  In the space provided below, note how you would modify the page to fit the needs of your sport.

Date Length of Practice Attentional Skill Practiced Activity Comments

Exercise 16 – Your Attentional Programme


Complete the following worksheet to outline how you will incorporate attentional training into your practice sessions.

List two exercises you will use to practice selective attention.



How will you fit these exercises into your practice sessions?



List two exercises you will use to practice shifting attentional focus.



Developing your own attentional Training Programme 

The time has now come for you to put together the education, acquisition, and practice phases for yourself. Review the material that has been covered so far and consider the concepts presented here.  Then, complete the following exercise and design your own programme.

Exercise 17 – Your Attentional Training Programme

How will you fit these exercises into your practice sessions?



List two exercises you will use to practice concentration.



How will you fit these exercises into your practice session



List any additional means of incorporating attentional skills training into your practices below.