Even worse that it be suggested as a means of developing young players as opposed to the accepted methods we currently use. Well let me outline what we currently do; young players start on their knees and place their head against a fleshy part of the target, they gradually build up to standing on their feet. ALL the time the tackled player is passive. What an extraordinary leap of faith we are asking our players to make in stopping a determined runner having only covered the RFU intro to tackling. How many different types of tackle do we see in the game of rugby? So many that they don’t even all have names! How do you coach them all? I know that I only coach a few different styles of tackle, largely those that lend themselves to a tackle pad, but if it is effective in stopping the man, stripping the ball, bringing the player to ground then who am I to tell the tackler it is not from my list of prescribed “approved” tackles.
Back to minis and juniors, if the way we teach tackling is fundamentally flawed by the fact that we are practising against a false opponent, then the non contac t game is also flawed in the way it rewards athletic players for running around everybody else and being greedy. I have yet to see a game of tag that had the teams drawing an opponent and passing the ball, they either ship it on regardless or don’t pass at all. When I learnt to play football I soon discovered that being greedy was not the best way to play. The game taught me that as I wasn’t rewarded generally.
You cannot and should not teach rugby minus the contact, it is like teaching boxing without throwing punches. Coping with knocks is core to the game, it is after all about courage for many! Young players should be nurtured to become comfortable with this, not dropped in from a great height. The 10m square with my opponent facing me terrified me as a boy as he ran across as fast as he could and I was expected to not only stand there and wait for the inevitable but ACTUALLY run towards him!
Obviously I am going to say that Cage Rugby is a game which promotes this nurturing, Why?
- The space is so small that players do not get to build up a head of steam against you.
- There are support players close by to assist you in the tackle so nobody should feel isolated
- The development games to encourage physical contact and comfort with it also teach good technique
- Players learn the core contact skills holistically from playing a game. Their own game sense is being developed, in the right way so as to be beneficial to them when they are playing adult rugby because the mini game and the senior game are so similar and NOT so different.
- Can we honestly take anything from those “oiks” who call themselves cagefighters? When you meet them you can only be impressed by their professionalism and fitness. Why are they so focussed? Because if they weren’t they’d get hurt. Embrace the risks and you can plan to cope with them, fear of the unknown is the worse sort of fear.
- Combat sports practice right in the face of the opponent always under constant pressure, why don’t we? RFU level 1 will ask what is the difference between a skill and a technique, and the answer involves “pressure”!!
I am well aware that a young person’s will can be broken by exposing them to situations which scare them. That is precisely why I oppose the accepted methods. I am not advocating throwing the players into the arena and watching them “go for it”, they must be built up to that point with small sided games and one on one exercises that develop confidence in contact.
Proof of the pudding, in 1 week of delivery with a yr 7 group in Bradford who had never played rugby before went from absolute novices to full contact indoor rugby, and they then pestered their teacher to start a school rugby team!