When you’re coaching a bunch of wild, raucous athletes with a killer instinct, you need to prepare in advance for how you might think they can best be handled and that said, you may still discover that it can be a trial and error process based on your team.
Working them while the match is ongoing is just as important as anything that you can say or do in training or before a game and try to use these tips to keep a keen eye.
DO use your sense of timing. Deliver information when you can tell your player is listening and will be receptive. Throwing too much at them in the middle of the play or when they are clearly wound is not effective.
Do look at what is happening right now and deal with things in the moment. Worry about skills development or playing against weakness when you’re in training not during a match.
DO remain completely under control. If you become agitated or fearful, it shows and your panic will set about a domino effect and freak out your players. You need to be the most stable element on the field and they need to able to look to you when they’re pumped with adrenalin and need direction. Watch as many angles as possible and take mental notes.
DON’T be a control freak and micromanage every move. You may know better but players need to learn to hone their own game instincts. They may already be aware of what’s happening so give them a chance to correct themselves where possible. Use encouragement where appropriate and build their confidence in themselves so that their natural talent really begins to shine. Even instructing through errors should use a positive spin.
DON’T let yourself be distracted in the middle of a match. Ignore the crowd and save small talk with the players or other coaches until after the game. Rugby moves quickly and you’ll need to stay focused at every minute of play. Your players need you. At half time, keep your head on the game and insulate your players from commentary from fans or parents. You’re the coach, the fans are not.
DON’T get engaged in an argument with officials. This is very distracting to players and it dilutes your authority. More often than not, it will not change the outcome of the call or the game. If a call is made that you absolutely must question, do it respectfully and with rancor. It is still not likely that an official will change a call so make sure that it’s very important before you step into that.
DO make a list for yourself. Use it to record what you see in the opposition as strengths and weaknesses and be able to direct your team to counter balance what you see. Additionally, record what you see from you own players so that you can create a strategy for training to close any skills gaps in that regard as well.
DO remember that you can make a difference in your team’s game. When the game begins, give them your full attention. This is the most important way that you can support your team in the game. They need to be able to rely on you to inspire the best in them. While the win is great outcome, building the potential of those under your tutelage is that most fulfilling result.