Contrary to popular belief, kicking is an all of body movement requiring much more than a leg swing. For effective execution coaches will develop a player’s ability to shift weight “through” the kick via the pillar, rather than rely on the raw power of leg alone. Remember: Smoother, not Harder
Other details I have learnt to look out for when watching goal-kickers:
Heel strike on the plant foot with good stretch on final stride
A controlled balance arm
Launch angles and Set height
Maintaining a square lead shoulder
Using a consistent mental rehearsal before each kick
Foot speed at ball impact
If technical gold nuggets are your bag, give Stuart a follow or tweet, he sure knows his stuff!
This amazing 10 min speech in front of a corporate audience by master Rugby League coach and mentor Wayne Bennett epitomises everything good about true leadership. Not just in terms of Rugby League but in every aspect of life.
Just sit back, watch and enjoy.
Here’s another version of the cherokee story that Wayne Bennett tells…
The Wolves Within
An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, “Let me tell you a story.
I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.
But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.” He continued, “It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.
But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger,for his anger will change nothing.
Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”
The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”
The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.”
Always work on your strengths. The tendency is for players to address their weaknesses to the detriment of their strengths. This means your weaknesses improve but your strengths also decline, leaving an average skill-set all round.
Work-on’s seen in the footage:
Aaron Smith – box kicking accuracy
Kevin Mealamu – body height and breakdown intensity. Note the small steps taken pre-contact to ensure breakdown accuracy and a strong power base
Hosea Gear -standing start resistance acceleration sprints. Note the short explosive steps and short distance used when working with resistance (eliminates extensive drag which if overused could possibly lead to poor foot patterning and increased ground contact timing.)
Working on strengths that can carry into other areas of the game, e.g. if you are a noted ball carrier but not as accurate at the breakdown – learn to improve body height in your carries (bending knees vs hinging at the hip & getting your body over your knees vs leaning into contact) and this will go long way to improving your breakdown height too.
Pre-Tackle technique with Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick
Defender aligning on the Attacker’s inside shoulder – gives the attacker only one option
Small steps into contact - allows accuracy and flexibility should attacker side-step (similar to Keven Mealamu’s example)
Hands are up and elbows in – forces the defender to keep their eyes up like they’re looking over a pair of sunglasses and some may use the hands to sight a target on the approaching attacker
On contact, defender’s foot placement aims to get as close to the attacker as possible to destabilise their momentum. The shoulder is ‘punched’ into the mid-section of the attacker and the arms wrap quickly with the head to the side getting the defender’s facial cheek onto the attackers butt cheek aka ‘cheek-to-cheek’. Followed with good leg drive to send the attacker backwards.
Sam Cane discusses 20-min ‘work-on’ blocks at the end of each team session
It may only be 5-mins tackling, 5-mins ball-skills, etc but when planned over the course of a week it allows players to build confidence in that they’ve addresses strengths/weaknesses and ticked the right boxes leading up to match day.
Aaron Smith discusses his work-on routine
To begin his skills work he likes to start his passing drills standing still from the hip (probably like this).
Then progressing into passing off the ground
Another progression is having the ball rolled towards him in different ways (perhaps simulating loose ball out of a ruck)
Footage of scrum skills off the back from No.8 passing to him followed by a chip kick
Finally working under fatigue to try and simulate the game by sprinting 100m and then attempting to maintain his passing accuracy across drills
Gym work begins with posterior shoulder excercises Y’s T’s and I’s (a low impact shoulder routine to stabilise the shoulder girdle)
Power focus: Standing Long Jumps and Box Jumps help develop explosive, agile athletes
Power focus: Flat Bench Press with resistance bands help develop power at both extremes of the movement range
Power focus: Hang pulls and Jump Squats to develop hip drive and triple extension. Note the cord measurement tool attached to the bar during Aaron Smith and Sam Cane’sJump Squats – this helps quantify the amount of power output (Watts?) each player produces per lift/jump so they can have a goal programmed for each session to ensure development is measurable. Assistant Coach Ian Foster reads out each reading to ensure he’s getting feedback to measure effort. Dan Baker has been using this measurement tool (GymAware) at the Brisbane Broncos for a time period too, including on himself!
Back to field and Luke Romano goes through high ball catching skills to simulate kick-off restarts and 22m drop-outs. McCaw has also made it a signature part of his game in recent years by mastering the midfield kick-off restarts.
Anticipate early where the ball is going
Get there as fast as possible and get up with arms high to catch the ball above your head
Sam Canes finishes off with a point on not losing sight of what skills you’ve trained and keeping things position specific e.g. in his case aerobic fitness for a flanker.
One of the world’s leading Athletic Development (aka Strength and Conditioning) coaches, Vern Gambetta gives his thoughts on the root of winning teams — a winning culture.
The root of successful teams is the culture. It is not something that just magically happens. Like talent a winning culture is grown, encouraged and nurtured.
What exactly is it? Honestly I can’t quite put my finger on it. You know it when you see it, you can sense it, it is a feeling, sometimes a state of mind. It is not inspirational signs all over the walls, or t-shirts with slogans, it is a way of getting it done everyday in a workmanlike manner without fanfare. It can be changed both for the better and for worse. It is not something you can take for granted.
Look around at coaches who have successful teams and individuals they get it. It is doing the little things consistently well. It is how you wear the uniform. How you fail as well as how you win. It certainly is not facilities. It is people, a way of life in sport that fosters a sense of confidence without being cocky. It may be intangible but you know it is there.
This year’s 2012 Super Rugby champions, the Chiefs went to the extent of developing their own team haka. It wasn’t performed pre-match like other NZ school and representative sides but it was obviously used as a tool to foster a sense of belonging within the group.
You may not need a haka. But you do need to develop your own unique culture.
A quick post highlighting the use of hypoxic swim training for Rugby players. If you haven’t heard of it before it basically refers to the use of a low-breathing pattern in a training discipline, in this case hypoxic swim sets.
The training style has found itself in vogue across various Rugby conditioning programmes for a couple of main reasons; one being good (i think) and another being contentious.
Here’s Digby getting in a length without taking a breath:
The good reason i think this is effective for Rugby players should be obvious. It provides a de-load option for the legs and hips. Days, weeks and months spent squatting in the gym, road/field running plus game days means your legs/hips bear the brunt of the physical load. Training in a pool means less load but can give you another method of building VO2 max (that’s the contentious reason!)
So whichever way you see it, it is beneficial in at least one way – for Rugby players at least.
For those looking to give this method a go, here’s an example 4-week progression I found online:
Week 1 - 25m x 20 (as few breaths as possible)
Week 2 - 50m x 20 (aim for a breath every 6-10 strokes)
Week 3 - 75m x 20 (aim for a breath every 6-10 strokes)
Week 4 - 100m x 20 (aim for a breath every 6-10 strokes)
Part 2 in the series of insightful Rugby tidbits gleaned from players, coaches and trainers. You can read Part 1 here.
NZ Scrum coach Mike Cron elaborates on scrum technique:
What technical aspects make a good scrum?
I always liken it back to golf, because I think everyone understands the game of golf. The first thing you have to do is get your set-upright. In golf that’s like holding the club and addressing the ball correctly, and for us in scrummaging we’re bent over, balanced, and in control of our body. The next area like golf is the swing, where you have to swing through the ball and follow through. For us that’s the engagement process. We engage, we hit the opposition, then we continue transferring power through into the opposition. Then the third stage is staying strong with movement. So for me they are the three key areas: set-up, engagement, and staying strong with movement.
Is there one position in the scrum more important than others?
They are all important positions but tighthead prop is key. You live and die by your tighthead prop. The way a scrum is formed, or the way the two front rows pack against each other, the actual axis of the scrum - the centre point or where it rotates around - is the opposition hooker’s right shoulder. Why I say that is that is because the scrum’s left side naturally moves forward ahead of the right side, it’s the natural screw or ‘tilt’ due to the way it is set up. Consequently, the tighthead prop – he’s the guy on the right hand side – is going in to the wind or into the stream if you like. Whereas, the guy on the loosehead side is going down stream, he’s got the wind behind him, so to speak. So as well as the opposition pushing against him, the tighthead prop also has the natural screw of the scrum pushing against him too.
What does he look for in potential top-level scrummagers?
We’re dealing in big forces, no different to lifting or pushing heavy weights. I’ve worked for many years with biomechanists who have helped me understand the body a lot more, so I’m always looking at good strong and safe technique. That’s making sure your angles are right, to make sure you can always transfer the correct power, as well as resisting power against you. The safest technique is the strongest technique as it turns out. I’ve been working with scrums since 1980 and I can’t remember any of my front rowers getting neck or back injuries or anything like that. That’s because we’re pedantic at making our guys work on their technique to allow them to scrummage correctly.
Can you coach front-rowers or do you just select the most powerful?
Quite often you could line up 50 guys at the gym, and it might not even be the top 10 powerful lifters that would make the best scrummagers. It’s how you use your body. Some bodies are tense and strong, whereas other bodies feel like they have more movement, like they are little ‘looser’. With front rowers, they need to be the former. Consequently, guys that work the farm - manual workers, these kind of guys - they generally know how to use their bodies to stay strong with movement. So you might not be the most powerful man in the gym, but you could well be the most powerful scrummager because you can use your body better.
Watch Mike Cron deliver one of his Scrummaging masterclasses (29mins)
It’s not about running through brick walls, it’s about challenging the line to threaten and shape the enemy defence…Simply having players run off a 10 isn’t enough if that 10 doesn’t threaten the line from time to time. And, running off a deep 10 seldom gives you access to the gain line, whether your attack is close or wide. Lose the gain line and you lose the collision. Lose the collision, and you lose the opportunity to keep the ball alive or play off fast ruck ball.
Custom back squat harness used in his gym lifts early in the video - possibly because he is on the taller side and biomechanically max. loading a traditional back squat is difficult with his long levers (arms/legs)
Core roles for his position: Scrummaging and Lineouts (lifting) but if that’s all you do, you’ll be an average rugby player - add to your repertoire.
Crockett prides himself on being able to master the team tactics and being able to be in support when a break is made or even play a hand in a line-break.
If you’re not prepared physically from your off and pre-season conditioning, you are going to battle throughout the competition (probably more with injuries).