Offload drills – the crowd favorite

Quade Cooper offloading the ball in contact

Everyone goes crazy when a good offload pass comes off. It is not something that defenders expect and a potent weapon to use on the last line of defense. There are a number of offload drills that you can work on to teach players to master the skill and use it correctly at game time.

There are two main variations of the offload that players should learn to do:

  • back of the hand (chicken wing)
  • offload in front – the way Quade Cooper does it in the picture

The most important thing about an offload pass is not to overdo it and only do it in the right situations. It should not be a pass that you do on defense as it is a high-risk & high-reward pass.

If you do it on the attack you create an opportunity to breach the line of defense. If done at exactly the right time, the offload often leads to players getting through the final line of defense and a player running in for a try without anyone putting a hand on them.

Offload passing drills

As the mechanics of an offload are sometimes unnatural players need to become comfortable doing it first. This takes a bit of time, but can be solved with repetition which helps improve the dexterity of the muscles in a player’s hands and forearms.

You should start off by first showing the players while standing still how the two passes are executed.

The ball can be held in the same way for both passes and it is easiest to refer to the photo of Quade Cooper again for this. You nestle the ball in your hand and push it up against your forearm. When players run carrying the ball in one hand, they often carry it like this.

Back of the hand offload

Offloading out of the back of your hand

To do the back of the hand pass you will start with the ball in one hand and this it to the inside towards your body. The pass is then completed by extending your arm at the elbow.

Once this becomes a fluid motion you will start to increase your accuracy and hit your target more often than not.

An important thing to remember is not to pass the ball too hard.

The opposition is not expecting the offload, but neither are your support runners. If you do the offload you need to op it up and let it float a little to allow your support runners to run onto the ball.

Offloading in contact (in front of you)

When you offload in contact in front of you you will be able to offload more accurately. This offload is the easiest to execute if you have gotten your hands through the tackle and you have forward momentum.

The back of the hand offload is more focused on a movement by the elbow, but this offload is often done more from the shoulder.

Offload pass drills

The offload is used in attack and it is important to bring defenders into the picture to make it more realistic. It is easiest to start with static defenders.

  • Line up 3 static defenders in a line about 5 meters apart
  • Line up 4 attackers in a line behind each other facing the first defender
  • Start by jogging towards the first defender
  • The attacking player must step a bit to the right
  • The defender catches the player (not a full tackle)
  • The attacking player gets his hands through the tackle and offloads in contact in front of him
  • The supporting player catches the ball and this is repeated with the 2nd and 3rd defenders

Two simple variations to this drill are:

  • pass both left and right by getting your hands through the contact
  • offload out of the back of the hand just before contact

These are exceptionally simple offload drills but will equip players with the necessary skills to perform the offloads properly.

In a senior rugby game with 180+ passes, there are usually only around 10 offloads. They are however lethal when done at the right time.