Coach Challenge: “Make a player feel connected!” by Ty Sterry and Jack Pattinson

So this is a joint blog this week. Jack and I have been talking a lot recently about ‘how’ we coach and more importantly ‘how’ we can improve. Well, we’ve some interesting thoughts and ideas to share with you in this blog. Please let us know your thoughts…

Let’s start with a GREAT VIDEO!!!!!

What did you see? A better question is: What would you have done if you had walked in on this as a parent? Jack and I both bet you might have intervened to stop the activity and solve the problem for the children yourself…? I could just imagine myself saying something along the lines of: “DON’T DO THAT AGAIN!”.

Let’s put this in a rugby context… Here is a story from Jack’s days as a young player…

“We were at a training session one Sunday morning, I was twelve years old…And as well as enjoying Rugby, I was a keen footballer (Sorry for dropping the “F” bomb!!). When I played rugby, I loved kicking the ball as well as running and passing….. In this particular session I remember kicking the ball without much success but I guess I was just doing what I felt was right at the time. The kick wasn’t ‘successful’ but I was experimenting and learning. However, how the coach reacted shaped the way I was to play for the next 12 years…

The coach called us all in and singled me out in front of all my friends, he said to me ‘Jack you are a forward….. never ever EVER kick the ball again!’ I felt embarrassed and started to doubt my own decision making. I  never kicked the ball again….”

What is eye opening for a coach here, is that by following the coaches instruction, effectively Jack took away a third of the skills he could utilise in order to Go Forward, in essence reducing his decision making options by a third!!

Moving on to the present day and the discussion Jack and I had, this blog is centred around challenging ‘how’ we teach, ‘how’ we coach and even ‘how’ we are as parents…. We concluded that we were both committed to reviewing our techniques, methods and ideas. What I would say though is that our coaching philosophies are aligned and so it was easy agreeing to explore some ideas we have recently been inspired by Russell Earnshaw and John Fletcher, which we will share with you in a bit!

So back to the video… In a rugby context what did we see? Jack and I would argue that you’ve just seen C.A.R.D.S. in practice…. A creative, aware, resilient, decisive and self-organised child committed to supporting his little brother in problem solving… Do you see where we are going with this??? This video was no different to watching a group of kids with a ball, in an unstructured and more importantly, UNINTERRUPTED playing environment. Eddie Jones recently spoke about his desire to be ‘redundant’ in order to ensure the players are able to lead and problem solve themselves… Just like the children who problem solved their way out of the cot as a team!

Question: How often do you intervene when the session isn’t going to (your) plan?

Question: Why are you intervening?

Question: Have you ever (genuinely) stood back and refused to give the solution?

So here’s something that we have ben inspired by to challenge how we can create the best possible problem solving environment in training…

Today we “Test drove” a coaching concept inspired by our International Performance Coaches (Russell and Fletch), here is a picture to show you an example of what we used:

Challenge cards

To bring the image above to life, we spent a few hours designing 3 types of challenge/ problem solving cards that we could introduce in our coaching sessions:

  • Player Challenge Cards (Individual challenges to encourage the player to think in different ways)
  • Team Challenge Cards (Group challenges for the team to overcome)
  • Coach Challenge Cards (Challenges for the Coaching team to pursue within the session)

Ultimately, the idea was to create a ‘game within a game’ whereby a normal game is being played whilst a number of individual and collective challenges are introduced throughout. Initially, we created a basic playing environment with minimal rules/ boundaries and as the session progressed, we gradually introduced a variety of (individual and collective) challenges to the game. Having introduced a challenge, we would then sit back and observe for 4-5 minutes to see how the individual/ team would respond.

It was fascinating to see how the children explored a variety of potential solutions to the problems and challenges they were facing. One player was tasked with ‘making 5 offloads’, which naturally encouraged him to be creative, free his arms and create multiple opportunities for his team mates to go forward (Continuity) while another player was challenged with ‘encouraging a team mate to kick the ball to into space’ (something we often find players are discouraged from doing). The solutions the kids were beginning to identify was an absolute pleasure to watch.

How many interventions do you think we (the coaches) made to give the players the solutions to their problems/ challenges? None…(Other than to get some fluids on board where we would make use of the opportunity to question and prompt their self-reflection. More games for them. Less chat from us.)

Having reflected on the session, it was incredibly fluid and was constantly developing through the sporadic (and at times random) introduction of our challenge cards. The game barely stopped. The kids loved being challenged (after a while, they started to approach us and ask for challenges) and made to think in different ways about the game. And as Coaches, we were simply able to coach in the moment (as opposed to scrambling over our session plan trying to remember our ‘key coaching points).

Are you ready for the challenge???

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One thought on “Coach Challenge: “Make a player feel connected!” by Ty Sterry and Jack Pattinson

  1. Great blog guys, it seems the Earnshaw Effect is spreading! I too have changed my coaching method and thought process since spending time with Russell. Love the cards and will certainly be adding these to my collection! Have a great season.

    Liked by 1 person

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