Before the coach can observe and analyse a skill they should first identify the purpose of the skill. Rugby skills can have a wide range of purposes, for example, stopping an opponent (a rugby tackle), kicking a goal, throwing into a lineout, passing into space. Understanding the purpose of the skill is important as it helps the coach know what parts of the skill to focus on.
Most skills can be divided into three phases:
- The preparatory phase
- The execution phase
- The follow-through phase
The Preparatory Phase
The preparatory phase involves movements that get the player ready for the force-producing movements in the execution phase. For example, the run-up when place-kicking a ball.
The Execution Phase
The execution phase can be divided into two parts:
- The force-producing movements the players make to produce force for the impact or propulsion, for example, the swing of the leg when place-kicking.
- The "critical instant" is the point of contact (or the release) of the movement, for example, the moment of contact in a place kick. This is the point that determines the effectiveness of the skill.
Successful execution requires the player to apply the correct amount of force, in the correct direction and with precise timing. It is often difficult for the coach to observe and assess the movement within this phase, as the movement takes place very quickly.
The Follow-Through Phase
The follow-through refers to the body movements occurring after the execution phase. This phase is where the movement slows down after impact and the player prepares for the next action. For example, the high leg-lift after place-kicking a goal. The follow-through is important in slowing the body parts down over a longer period of time, absorbing the forces produced and helping to prevent injuries. Coaches should be aware that all three of these movement phases are equally important to a successful skill performance. For example, close observation of the preparatory or follow-through phase will often provide the coach with excellent clues about the effectiveness of the execution phase and the cause of a poor performance.