Young kids can come up with some of the most amazing games you can think off. They run around for hours laughing and screaming doing the weirdest things, but always with a smile on their faces. When you look at creating rugby drills for young kids, you need to remember this.
Kids at this age love exploring and finding out more about the world around them. Almost everything that they get in contact with is totally new to them. With rugby, it is exactly the same. They would sometimes have watched a few minutes on television or at a local club or school, but probably got distracted after a few minutes…
If you understand the nature of these little ones you will know that you can’t approach your practice sessions in a conventional way. You need to look at the game in a whole different light and see how you can keep it interesting for everyone there.
The key principles for rugby drills for young kids
- Keep every drill short – the attention span of the kids at this age is very limited. So practice sessions should be short overall. Around 30 – 45 minutes in total. The drills that you do should also be 5 minutes or 10 minutes in length max.
- Focus on fun & skills – the players have to learn a couple of basic skills, but more importantly, their love for the game has to be nurtured.
- Remember their age – they have zero experience and they are just here to have fun. Make sure that everything you do with them is focused on teaching them a handful of the most basic skills and keeping them entertained.
- Mix it up – Do one drill that focuses purely on a skill, then play a game that indirectly develops another skill. Then repeat both steps until the end of practice.
A lot of what I mentioned above might sound odd at first, but trust me, it works. I have had the pleasure of training young kids for a number of years and applying these principles create players that love the game and develop a good skills base.
The drills you can do with these younger kids
As mentioned in point #4 above it is important to mix it up. I would like to suggest a couple of focus areas and simple drills you can use as a starting point. As a rugby coach, it is important that you then evolve your own drills to help your players grow and enjoy it.
Skills drills for younger kids
At this age level coaches and parents often expect more from the players than they actually know about the game.
There are only four areas you need to focus on with these kids:
- Passing the ball and catching the ball
- Stopping an attacker
- Running in the right direction
- Scoring a try
You might laugh at those last two especially, but you will be shocked to see how often kids get confused about it. Here is a little more detail:
Passing the ball and catching the ball
Slow progression is key to success. The first thing you need to show kids is how to hold the ball and then to throw it to a kid no more than 1-2 meters in front of them. The kid in front of them should hold out there hands to catch the ball.
Simply repeating this simple exercise does the following: improve motor skills, improve hand-eye coordination, improve dexterity and dexterity…
Once the players are effectively passing straight to the receiver most of the times and the ball is being caught most of the time, it is time to move on.
Next up you should let the players walk side by side in small groups of 3 or 4 and pass from one end to another. This should then be followed by doing the same at a jog.
Stopping the attacker
At this age, most of the play is not full-contact and players have to rip off a tag to stop a defender.
Obviously you can’t work on tackle technique, but what you can do is to get them to organize themselves in a defensive line.
You can do a simple drill saying that if they don’t have the ball they should:
- quickly form a line next to each other looking at the other team with the ball
- hold up their arms to the side and stand a bit more than arms length apart
- as the ball moves, they must shuffle from side to side as a unit.
- when an attacker comes at them, they closest player must go in to remove the rip
Simple, but very effective and actually applicable to how they will defend when they get older.
Running in the right direction
When one of these youngsters gets the ball the excitement levels go through the roof and they just start running. You will often see that the direction is far less important to them than just running with the ball.
Always in a game let them know where they are supposed to score and which side they should defend.
During practices you can put out a set of cones of a particular color and tell them that they have to run towards those colored cones when they get the ball.
Scoring a try
As a result of all of the excitement of running with a ball, the players often completely forget to score a try when they get over the line.
Doing simple drills where you tell them to put the ball on the ground after they get over the try-line will help a lot with this. You can simply line them up a few meters away from the try-line in practice. Then let them run with a ball and put it down on a cone behind the try-line.
If you do this it is important to remove the cone after a while, otherwise they will look for it during a game.
Useful games to play in between
To break up the rugby specific drills for these young kids it is good to play some quick little other games.
Here I won’t suggest any, but just give you ideas of what you want to look for in a game:
- VERY simple, often silly
- It must involve different movements – running, jumping, rolling, hopping like a frog
- with or without a ball
- every game must be 2 or 3 minutes long ideally and 5 minutes at most
The goal of these games is to focus on building up their functional movement skills. They have to be comfortable with the movement of their own little bodies. This gives them the platform to really develop all around.