Everyone starts to get excited when the players start to play some good rugby. It is no longer just kids running around randomly, but actually often fun to watch. The rugby drills for young teens become so crucial in the evolution of the players though.
You will often find that there are a couple of players who really start to stand out from the rest. Some of them have real talent, while some are just ahead of the others temporarily. The biggest pitfall to watch out for is focusing on the stronger players with the goal of winning every match.
At this level, it is not professional rugby. The world’s clubs are not looking to you to be their next head coach. It is, however, one of the best places to hone your skills.
What rugby drills for young teens are the best?
At a younger age set phases are not contested and not much emphasis is placed on it.
Set phases do however start to come into play at this age and it is absolutely crucial to spend time with hookers, props, locks, flankers and the 8th man especially. They should all start to learn the proper technique for their respective positions in scrums and at lineouts.
The backline should mainly focus on returning to play as fast as possible both on attack and defense. This is crucial for the continuity and the example must be set by the scrumhalf and flyhalf. The centers, wings and fullbacks will play off the 9 and 10, but need to be there as options.
The back three also starts to come into play as a combination on defense especially. If they understand how and where to position themselves, you are good to go.
Now all of that is a bit broad, but you will see that there are links to other pages on our site detailing positional play and skills. Click through to those to learn more.
The overall game plan for younger teens
What sets apart teams at this age group is down to the following:
- the involvement of all players
- a well-drilled team
- a focus on the rugby-IQ of the players
We will dig into each of these in a little more detail
The involvement of all players
It is so tempting to focus on your star players with the goal of winning every game. This is however not what the focus should be on at this age. It is a huge phase in the long term development of players. You can’t neglect some players with the hope that others will do everything.
That is not fair to any of the players whether they are the stars or not. There should be a concerted effort on improving the skills and rugby-IQ of all players in the team.
It is true that your star will make 20 great contributions to the game. If you don’t involve the rest of the team (in this TEAM sport) in your plans, you will maybe get 2 or 3 great contributions from each of the other players.
We are not trying to take away any of the credit from the star player, but if you do your best to develop and involve everyone, the results speak for themselves. Suddenly you will start to get 5 to 10 great contributions from each of your players. Your star will probably still have 20 great contributions, but you take a lot of pressure of the player’s shoulders. Overall, you have a better team and far better results.
A well-drilled team
People often think that a well-drilled team means it is a team with a playbook containing dozens of plays. Not true. A well-drill team focuses on a few key aspects and makes sure they do that to perfection.
Rugby drills for young teens should be well balanced focusing on the percentages of what happens on the field.
At this age you will roughly see the following numbers:
- 5 lineouts on your own throw
- 5 scrums on your own throw
- 40-50 rucks
- 60-80 passes
- Your team needs to make 40-50 tackles
- 5 kicks by your players
Those numbers are not far from the truth, though it might go a little higher at times. The point I want to make however is that if you only have 10 set-pieces (5 lineouts and 5 scrums), why spend half of your practice session on these?
If there are 5 kicks to touch required by your kickers, are you sure they are getting that much practice?
There is a far higher volume of passes, rucks and tackles in a game. Are you spending the right amount of time on the right phases?
The key to success is to sit down and plan. It doesn’t take hours to do and it comes down to simple math. If you use the numbers above and you have 3 x 1-hour sessions per week with the players, how will you split up your time?
Plan your practice sessions based on what happens in games. Split out the time so that you give enough focus to each aspect. Also make sure after each game, that you look at what your main weakness was. Work in a bit of time in the following week’s planning to take care of this
A focus on the rugby-IQ of players
If a team is well-drilled it means that they know how to do things right. When they have a decent rugby-IQ, they know when to do the right things.
At this age level there only a handful of things that you need to focus on. They are extremely simple, but you need to talk to your players about this often and keep emphasizing it.
- Return to play – after you are tackled or have tackled someone, get up as quickly as possible and get back into position. This can be a defensive line, back into the backline or ready to take the ball off a short pass from the 9 for example. Don’t let your players get accused of ball watching.
- Exit out of your own 22 – the risk vs. reward scenario of running out of your own 22 is VERY bad at this age. Your players need to slow things down, secure the ball and kick it out as far down the field as possible.
- Work through the phases – I know you probably have that amazing backline move from a lineout, but it will only work sometimes. Players need to understand that they must be patient. At this age level, you will rarely get past 5 phases being played. You will also see that after 4 or 5 phases you are bound to score. The defenses just can’t get back into position that often.
Overall it is not very complicated to coach at this age level. The best thing you can do for yourself is to plan your sessions every week. Plan these sessions based on a split between what actually happens on the field and addressing 1 weakness from the previous game.