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Old 01-15-2010, 11:21 AM   #1
Steve Shafley
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Default Teenage Girl Rugby

James Evans and I have discussed rugby here before, a few years back, with others, and the discussion was quite fruitful. Since then I have taken up coaching a teenaged girls (U19) club side and been introduced to the wonderful world of unfunded club sports.

First off, let me list my constraints and information:

1. This is a club side. It's supported entirely by players dues. Much of the dues are used to pay USA Rugby their CIPP fees (insurance and registration). The rest is used to pay for referees. Anything left over might be used for new balls, new jerseys, etc. Essentially there is no money to pay for anything but an indoor space in the winter. I lose $200-300 a season coaching this sport.

2. For many of the girls, this is their only sport. For a few players, this is the only sport they have ever participated in. I have had a few play soccer concurrently with rugby, and a few participate in track and field. We are not associated with any one high school in the area. Last season I had athletes from 4 different high schools, including 1 home schooled athlete. I have more cheer and pom pom competitors than any other group except the "no sport" group.
3. Rugby is the only full contact sport for girls in Michigan, with any kind of infrastructure associated with it.

4. Practice begins mid-February. It isn't an option to practice outside, so I use a combination of local high school gyms and a local sports facility that has basketball courts for indoor practices.

As a coach, this season I have some very specific S&C goals to reach for. Last year I had 3 incidents of concussions on the team. After a bit of study and analysis, I have decided that early on I need to do two things: The first is to teach them early how to fall, so I have to include falling drills. The second is to strengthen their necks. I plan on using basic high repetition neck work (gravity as resistance at first) to accomplish this.

Essentially I can only train the team using bodyweight calisthenic type exercises and running. This is the framework of the initial conditioning work:

1. Slow run around the gym. I time this and go from 5-10 minutes.
2. Warm Up: Ball Handling Drills with some running.
3. Warm Up: Basic dynamic mobility work coupled with some specific stretches. The specific areas that I stretch statically are groin, hamstrings, quads, calves, hip flexors. This is where I'm going to add in the high repetition neck work.
4. Warm Up: Dynamic Movement Prep: This is pretty standard and includes lunges, backwards lunges, split squats, high knees, butt kicks, stiff legged walks, etc. Here I included drills done on tip toes to help with ankle stability, which is a massive issue with teenage female athletes.
5. Sport Specific Drilling (appropriate for location and time of year)

6. Conditioning

Running Specific: I tend to start out fast/slow intervals. Run fast down one part of the gym, turn the corner, run slow to the next corner, run fast to the final corner, walk to the last corner, repeat. I change these up as the teams fitness improves. I will spend ~10 minutes doing just this, then move onto the next sort of conditioning circuit.

One thing I do not do is any sort of speed development work. I don't have the time for this, nor is it more important to me than building the cyclic "sprint/impact/recover" type of fitness that is necessary for rugby.

Muscular Conditioning:

I have the girls divide up into 4 groups. They each move to the corner. I will blow the whistle, and they will run to the next corner, then I will call out a calisthenic exercise and repetitions. Sometimes I call the cadence, sometimes they work at their own pace.

I use basics, like push ups (on the knees for most of them, only my best Cheerleaders or Pom Poms can actually do real push ups most of the time, last year only one girl could at the start of the season, 5 girls could at the end), crunches, jumping jacks, squat thrusts, mountain climbers, slalom jumps, star jumps, squat thrusts with jumps, lunges, split squats, frog squats, push up "tick tocks" (a Danny John special) etc. If I'm feeling nice, and they've worked hard, later in the year each group gets to pick their exercise.

I go through that 3-4 times, sometimes more.

Cool down by doing a post-session walk around the gym, and sometimes I talk about why we do certain drills, since I incorporate a number of game flow drills that seem useless to the girls until they play the game, and then they realize, all of a sudden, that the drills teach them to be in the right place at the right time.

One more thing. Every year I have to discuss proper attire for training.
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Old 01-15-2010, 11:22 AM   #2
Steve Shafley
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Also, any other ideas for S&C, ball drills, or whatever will be appreciated and considered.
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Old 01-15-2010, 01:22 PM   #3
Mike ODonnell
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Not that I know much about Rugby, but I can relate what I have learned playing and coaching hockey.

- Skills need to be developed (in this case ball handling and passing?), through repetition....repetition....repetition (boring, but most skill work is)
- Standing around doing too much positioning work IMO is a waste of valuable time (esp if you have a limited amount of time to practice). Learning breakouts in hockey for 45 min did nothing for any of our stickhandling/passing skills.
- Sprinting full speed with a ball handling/passing is probably good for them to get used to moving quick and handling/passing at full speed.
- Doing change of direction/lateral movement drills is probably required to get explosiveness in all directions

All in all a good game plan above....explosiveness, sprinting, skill work.....those would be the top things I would focus on (pushups and so forth just throw in for basic strength but nothing more).

Have fun with it!
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Old 01-15-2010, 01:27 PM   #4
Garrett Smith
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Easy way to add some neck strengthening to other drills:

May have to use it early in the practice to avoid sharing too much sweat...then again, it is rugby...
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Old 01-15-2010, 01:44 PM   #5
Derek Weaver
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This is essentially what we did when I was still playing. Considering the lack of equipment I can't think of anything else to add. We got a fair amount of conditioning just from playing. The rest was very similar to what you're doing.
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Old 01-15-2010, 05:21 PM   #6
Arien Malec
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Biggest thing I learned coaching girls soccer (at much younger levels) is to keep the strength and conditioning work short and intense, focus on sprinting (as you noted above), keep the skill work to small groups (groups of 2 or three), do small sided games, and incorporate sprinting/running into everything. Drill work that involves standing around is a bad thing.
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Old 01-16-2010, 06:28 AM   #7
Steve Shafley
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All my drills (ball handling) are done in small groups (3-5) and include basic loops, scissors, and other passing maneuvers.

I run a lot of 2 on 1 and 3 on 2 drills for decision making and ball handling as well.

I try to not have a lot of standing around.

Like I mentioned in a previous thead, I did buy an Econoprowler for myself and will be pulling that out when when get outside.
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Old 01-16-2010, 07:48 AM   #8
Jay Ashman
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Shaf, I played rugby for 10 years and I can tell you that no amount of falling practice is going to help with concussions. Impacts, tackling, rucking, etc. cause those and when you get blasted and hit the ground, the last thing you are thinking about is falling right, use that time for conditioning drills.

One you can add is this: Pop pass drill. Set up 5-6 defenders in a line down the field (50-60m total) and have two girls run at them. One with ball, one following closely. When the first girl hits contact she pops the pass to her follow (while follow is at full speed) and continue down the field to the next defender. They are alternating positions until the end. This comes in handy in a game situation when she has an almost open field run but one defender stands her up, you will hope that her follow is coming full speed before a ruck can form and be able to receive a pop pass at full speed to continue the ball downfield. I hope that helps because its much easier to show than to tell, ya know.

Another thing you can do as a "reward" for good practicing or a good game is touch rugby. Teenagers love to play, so this is a great way to get them to play around WHILE reinforcing crisp passes, fast ball movement, proper set-up of players and effective defense. Plus playing it for 20 minutes is a great conditioning workout.

Have your tight 5 (1,2,3,4,5) engage in scrums on a sled (if you have one, if not use three other players) and practice balls-out drills.

We used to run the length of the field doing loop passes, line passes, etc, but it looks like you have them covered already.

Work them hard, make them more conditioned than the other team and you will win. When I helped coach my local college team the head coach ran them ragged... and they ended up beating Navy's B-side. Keep in mind this is a very small college, D3 in major sports.

If you are the only coach it is very hard to break out into positional drills, you just have to manage the time and create drills that will help forwards learn to be forwards and backs learn to be backs. Having game-type play (scrimmages) will help greatly with that, but if you are doing drills alone, it is very hard.

Get this book: http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Condi.../dp/0736052100

This is by far the best book I have used to help me get better conditioned. Its solid as hell. I still have it as a matter of fact.

I could type out more but I don't need to be a book right now, hope some of that helped.
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Old 01-16-2010, 06:11 PM   #9
Steve Shafley
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Where I'm coming from via concussions:

Most teen girls have never done anything to train their necks. Contrast this to high school football players and wrestlers, who train them all the time.

From what I can tell from the tapes I have of the injuries, 2 concussions occurred because the girls were tackled or tackling and essentially their heads smacked into the ground. Neck strength isn't going to hurt in this, and might help. The 3rd concussion was a skull to skull contact during a tackle, and nothing would have prevented that but a scrum cap. What's bizarre is that in the previous 2 years of coaching, and 12 years of playing I didn't see a single concussion that wasn't a skull to skull event.

With foot drills and ankle work: 2 out of 5 of the teen soccer players who also played rugby had either braced or taped ankles.

I was a forward, so my coaching is very focused on the forwards. Teaching the backs to play effectively is harder for me than teaching the forwards to play. I do a lot of similar pop passing drills, and this year I'm going to take advantage of "Ruling 4"

Ruling Request from the NZRU and ARU Law 15 and 16

Law 15 6 (b) states:
After a tackle any players on their feet may attempt to gain possession by taking the ball from the ball carriers possession.

Law 16.1 (b) states:
How can a ruck form? Players are on their feet. At least one player must be in physical contact with an opponent. The ball is on the ground.

Law 16.4 (b) states:
(b) Players must not handle the ball in a ruck.

When a player has complied with Law 15 6 (b), is on his feet and playing the ball after a tackle and is then joined by an opposition player on his feet so that the situation outlined in 16 1 (b) occurs, can the player who has complied with Law 15 6 (b) continue to play the ball with his hands or at what point does he have to release the ball?

This does not appear to be covered by Law.


Law 15 6 (a) states: After a tackle, all other players must be on their feet when they play the ball.

Law 15.6 (b) reads: After a tackle any player on their feet may attempt to gain possession by taking the ball from the ball carriers possession.

Law 15 5 (e) states that: If opposition players who are on their feet, the tackled player must release the ball.

This indicates that after a tackle a player on his feet may play the ball.

Law 16 1 (b) states: How can a ruck form? Players are on their feet. At least one player must be in physical contact with an opponent. The ball is on the ground.

Law 16.1 refers to a player from each side in physical contact over the ball and implies that the ball is not in the possession of any player.

Providing a player from either side on their feet after a tackle comply with all aspects of Law 15 and have the ball in their hands prior to contact with an opposition player on his feet those players may continue with possession of the ball even if a player from the opposition makes contact with those players in possession of the ball.

Any other players joining the two players contesting the ball must not handle the ball in accordance with Law 16.4 (b). If the ball is not in possession of any player after a tackle and a ruck is formed players may not use their hands in accordance with Law 16.4 (b).

The Ruling is effective from 23 May for the start of matches in the June window and after the close of any domestic or cross border competitions
Essentially this allows the balls to clear after a tackle dramatically faster. To take advantage of this, I need better conditioning that I have in the past.

Thanks for typing that stuff up, Jay.
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Old 01-16-2010, 07:49 PM   #10
Nick Hildebidle
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A couple of things:

I've been looking around at:

There are definately some good ball drills here. If you look at the videos that correspond with the drills some of them are done in a pretty confined space, so they definately could work indoors.

One thing that all the well conditioned teams I've been on have done is carrying drills, ie fireman's carries, etc. Not sure if that's something you want to do on a hard floor though.

I'd be interested to hear what your scrum progression with the girls is. I mainly coach HS and MS boys, but I'll be doing a few scrum sessions with the girls this coming spring.
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