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How to tour, big time or small time

Hit the road jack!

Touring is one of the great traditions of rugby, at any level.

Whether it be in the amateur era where teams spent months together on crowded and ocean rough liners; or the professional age where business and first class travel is the norm for Test sides, through to the carpooling for the long trip to the next town for junior teams.

The art of travelling in woven into rugby’s fabric.

It isn’t easy on the surface.

Lumpy foreign pillows, unfamiliar tea cups, and forgotten amenities like a toothbrush or a player’s favourite hair product can conspire to disrupt any team.

Then having to train in an unfamiliar field, prepare in a foreign changing room and then perform on a rugby pitch that could have unfamiliar irregularities and conditions alien to the players.

The real difficulty when it comes to travelling is that at the lower levels, it is often a big part of the coach’s responsibility.

At the highest level there is a team manager, logistics personal and perhaps even a mythical bag man.

So how to cope!

How to plan and coach a rugby team - while trying to be a transportation and accommodation manager, it sounds like it is too big a task?

It is, if you don’t plan.

So let us begin.

First of all sit down and jot down everything you need, and enlist the services of an apprentice.

That is, the one player who has a natural grasp when it comes to organisation and planning, the individual who has never forgotten an item of gear, never failed to follow if given specific instructions about tactics or training.

This is an often ignored aspect of coaching – you are a teacher, and the best mentors seek to pass on all knowledge they possess but at the same time use their students as support tools.

So back to that list.

Think of when you go on holiday with your family.trip.jpg

Have you forgotten things before? Or more to the point, how good is a little checklist, which you cross off as you go.

How do you think of that list?

Create a ‘mental train’.

Close your eyes, and think of the journey from start to finish, broken down into little parts.

First up the car trip (for example purposes we will keep this small).

So the list:

-    Petrol taken care of?
-    Car/van/etc checked up? A breakdown stops the trip cold.
-    Enough seats? (you would be surprised how often this isn’t worked out)
-    Are you leaving at a good time? (middle of day equals hot in the car etc)
-    Do you know where you are going (keep that address in the glove box)
-    Map?
-    Planned stop? (toilet and lolly breaks)
-    Comforts in the car (bottled water)
-    Enough storage for everything?

Looks complicated, but you won’t miss a thing.

Moving onto the next chapter, the port of call (i.e. where you are staying).

-    Have you rung the hotel, house/ballots, before you leave?
-    Do you have ‘sleeping concerns’ taking care of? (extra pillows, earplugs)
-    Set a standard/charter – expect players to pull their weight when the travel
-    Set your timings, make sure you leave on time etc
-    Get the number of rooms right, amazing how often this is an issue!

When you arrive, make sure you focus on the rugby, while taking in the sights is nice, it isn’t a holiday.

If your players adopt this mentality it is a good chance you will lose.

Organise other ‘home away from home’ aspects.

-    Training grounds, have them confirmed and have an alternate
-    Don’t let food become a takeout feast, keep diet and training in mind
-    Make sure transport to and from the ground on the day is sorted
-    Let players immerse themselves in the local culture, be it another country or town
-    Set ground rules, your choice, but again, it isn’t a holiday

Most importantly, make the trip away as homely as possible.

If the routines are intact, no distance will be too far.