There is a lot of joy in coaching players at this level, but the pressure starts to increase. It increases on players and coaches and the expectations increase from parents, supporters, schools and clubs. When you work on rugby drills for teenagers, you need to meet these challenges head-on.
Apart from the increasing pressure, there is the real problem of egos, hormones, growth-spurts and a load of other teenager problems coming into play. Although these make it difficult at times, your understanding of their situation and what they are going through can be a huge asset when coaching these players.
Players generally have developed the majority of their athletic abilities when they get to the age of 14. If they are fast, they will probably stay relatively fast. If they are slow, they are unlikely to get much faster. The kids that are big, might grow some more. Those that are smaller might have to work harder to gain strength and size.
Best rugby drills for teenagers
In the traditional rugby playing nations players would have some good experience and a solid skill base. In many countries, players only start playing rugby at the high school level. They are also often cross over athletes who competed in other sports.
The approach for the two groups of players would be quite different. It is important to identify which group your players fall into before planning your practice sessions.
Coaching players who are new to the game
Although many of your players would have some decent athletic ability already, it is important to make sure of a solid skills base. My suggestion would be to focus a lot on the type of drills you would do for under-14 rugby players (check out our menu).
This should form the basis for your practice sessions with new players. If you skip that, you are far more likely to end up with a number of players who will fold under pressure.
They need to develop an understanding of the game’s nuances and it is always the best idea to start with the basics. Once they “graduate” from there, you can progress them to the next level.
Working with experienced players
The greatest advantage of working with experienced players is that they will grasp most of the concepts fairly quickly. These players will have a good knowledge of the game and be able to make a number of good decisions on the field already
The first challenge that comes in with high school players is that they often came together from a number of different schools. The same applies if they are playing at a club.
The challenge in being successful would be less in teaching them a new set of traditional rugby skills, but getting them to gel as a team. We will however look at both the drills you can do and how to get them together as a team.
The rugby drills you can do with teenagers
The majority of you players will have decent skill levels, which helps a lot. The margins for error become a lot smaller at this age level. If your team is not competent in their rugby skills, you will always start on the back foot.
At this level, it becomes important to have practice sessions in the offseason as well. A lot of that practice will go into bringing the team together as a unit.
The skills to address during the offseason should focus on:
- Catching and passing – yes, they can do it already, but rarely are they flawless. Senior professional players still practice this regularly and so should you
- Tackling technique – the individual needs to be competent in performing tackles head-on, from the side and double tackles
- Defensive lines – just because your players can tackle it doesn’t mean that they are in the right area of the field to make the tackle
The above can be repeated in many different variations during the offseason. It doesn’t sound exciting, but you will love the results when it comes to game time.
In season you will have a steady group of players to practice with. At this time you can start focusing on set pieces (scrums and lineouts) as well as set moves from these phases.
More importantly, you can spend time on activities that bring the team together…
Rugby drills for teenagers to turn them into a team
If you have a number of brilliant individuals it doesn’t ensure success. It is much better to have a team than brilliant individuals.
The players need to get an understanding of how to cope with different game situations. The rugby drills for teenagers that you should focus on should be planned around game-specific situations.
- Small groups that play each other in a limited space – this can be 5 on 5, 4 on 3 or any combination you like. This helps in developing an understanding between players. It helps both on offense and defense to get creative about how to beat the other group
- Overload of offense versus small defensive numbers – playing touch rugby for a very short amount of time (1 minute) with 5 defenders against the rest of the team. You play the full width of the field and the defenders need to limit the amount of tries the offensive team scores on them. It is very hard work and improves fitness and defensive cohesion
- Create-a-scenario – you only need to think about the different scenarios you have on the field. Get creative about how you can play games around: counter-attack from the back 3, what to do close to the line from a ruck, beating defenders with unorthodox methods…
At this level, your players can play and you should let them. The key to unlocking their full potential is in getting them to play as a unit