I am very fortunate to be able to mix with some really excellent people. One of them is Ric Shuttleworth, Elite Coach Development Manager at the RFU. Ric works with professional coaches in the premiership rugby academies enhancing their ability to develop skill in young rugby players. I guess you could call him the 'Yoda' of skill acquisition!
Ric's philosophy is based on the 'Game Sense' or perhaps more accurately the 'Constraints Led' model of coaching. He suggests that skill should never be developed outside of a game like training environment, rather coaches should always challenge themselves to create what the successful Australian Hockey Coach, Ric Charlesworth calls 'designer games' so that players are learning and developing skills while inside a game like context so that the acquired skill is learned in an integrated sense rather than isolated.
Each time I get to chat with Ric I get some new nugget of coaching gold...here are a few that I describe as 'power moves'.
1. Let the players find the solutions.
2. The information should come from them to us.
3. We want mistakes. Mistakes are good.
4. Ask a question but don't expect an answer. Allow the activity to be the teacher, let them find the solution within the activity.
5. Manipulate time and space to create pressure. Players who have played a lot of invasion games are good at this.
6. Information dictates technique - the development of the skill should never be done in isolation of wider information. Otherwise the skill breaks down.
7. Expression and creativity is prized over conforming to a model. Innovation must be part of it.
8. Technique based KPIs are not important. Process is key, how committed to learning are they?
9. Establish the aim of the session based on the problems. List the problems and then work backwards towards the solutions.
10. Work out the methods of learning based on low, medium and high pressure options. Slide between these to illicit the best learning model for the individual.
11. Players want you to be in control. But you must break the control cycle. Don't offer feedback...force them to solicit it.
12. Todays’ generation get told what to do a lot. They are not used to making decisions.
13. Try to Structure 'unstructured' practice.
14. Encourage the players develop the games or solutions or constraints to solve the problem. Make them critically evaluate tactical approaches and make decisions accordingly.
15. Create repetition without repetition.
Check out this video I found of the F2 Freestylers tranfering their skills from football to rugby. I know that some of these things take a number of takes but they are impressive none the less!