No longer are they Small Blacks charging for gaps or swerving to avoid being ‘tagged’, but instead are beginning to learn the all-important contact aspect of the game, preparing themselves for higher levels where often learning to deal with contact can be the making or breaking of many a young hopeful.
Thanks to progression through the ranks, where kids play Rippa Rugby and engage in specialised Small Black programmes, by the time they become teenagers they have received a first-hand introduction to most of the fundamentals of the game.
The fundamental core skills have been taught, so what now?
Basics are the foundation of any good rugby player, but the trick with teenagers is that they need to be consistently engaged (and interested!), so skills activities and practice runs need to have a fair amount of variety to keep individuals progressing.
As a coach, you need to challenge your teenagers constantly, allow them to be creative and run free, as the result of this is that they will challenge you in return and create their own new ways to learn and practice their skills.
HINT: There is a need and to some extent an expectation to have boundaries – but then they need the ability to act freely inside these boundaries and grow!
Attention spans can break even after a minute or two, so make sure you constantly keep things fresh with variety and innovation.
If something isn’t working or if your teenagers aren’t reacting, don’t be afraid to change, for such alterations made throughout a session or season can be the difference between capturing and losing your audience.
Don’t forget these are teenagers you are coaching, these are not the All Blacks striving to beat France at Eden Park in the Rugby World Cup Final!
Any coach at any level wants to produce the finest players possible, but the reality with overseeing teenagers is that you – as their coach – can be disappointed if you feel the objective isn’t being achieved, which in turn lessens your teenager’s enthusiasm.
You the coach, need to have fun……and show it!
Make sure this filters onto your teenagers, and where possible (even make it a golden rule) play some sort of game at the end of the session, it will always give them something to look forward to.
While any distractions might lead to any coach worth their salt saying “get your minds back to the rugby!” the reality is that a connection that might ordinarily make a teenagers mind wander could by the same token have huge advantages for a coach.
Get to know your charges where you can away from the game as well; this will give you that wonderful connection of respect where your players will listen to you – simply because you have initially returned the favour.
Don’t forget about the parents
As it is with the junior levels, the parents are the crucial first and last link to teenagers training.
While teenagers have far more independence (imagined or otherwise) than Small Blacks, they still rely on their parents.
Further to this is that the benefits of a good coaching regime will have positive flow on effects to a household – and vice versa – so keep on the same page as Mum and Dad where you can and it could mean your job is half done before they step onto the rugby field.