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Archive for September, 2009

While coaching a women’s club team in the summer, I tried to incorporate as much footwork as possible.  I feel basic techniques are often ignored as coaches try to implement complicated moves and systems (my beef with these in a later post), but without them they haven’t the ability to execute these designs.  While everyone seems to know what a sidestep is – though not all are truly adept at it – I’m often met with a mass of blank stares when I ask someone to demonstrate a ‘swerve.’  If you look at old rugby texts from yesteryear, this is often heralded as the ‘only’ move as it seems players back then more often sought to run away from their opponents rather than into them – imagine!

As an example, I’ve provided some clips.  Josh Lewsey subtly rounds the Scottish full back with one to score at the 1:08 mark.  There’s a more obvious one, going inside this time, at 2:04 where he swerves inside TWO French defenders.

The best example, coupled with a fabulous floating dummy pass, is ‘little’ James Simpson-Daniel’s rounding of the massive Jonah Lomu while

Essentially, a swerve is a preservation of space with a straight run, followed by a sudden burst to the outside (much wider than a side step!) to get away from the defender, and then turning up field. This ‘burst’ must be done suddenly and not on a slant or the defender can simply ‘push’ across and bisect the angle.  Being a quick bugger helps, but even we ‘slower’ types can pull this off if you really ‘sell’ your defender into thinking the straight run ahead is going to lead to contact.  Then, as you see the defender sink onto her heels, you make your burst outside in almost the shape of a ‘J’ lying on its side.  (I’ve even pulled this off jogging at someone slowly, making them think the ‘big guy’ was just going to trundle into contact, and then sprinting away to the side and upfield as you get away from their channel!)

In addition, these clips show wonderful ball handling and straight running to ‘fix’ defenders / preserve the outside space.  The two ‘lines’ taken most by Canadian wingers, especially, and players in general is a diagonal run to the outside or the sadly more-common step back inside into contact.  Whether to simply run away from the tackler or to ensure the tackle is made closer to support, I think both options are negative.  To use the ‘p-word’ again, the initial forward run leading into a swerve preserves all that space to the outside, whereas the diagonal run eats it all up and allows the defender better access to you.  A proper swerve will see you suddenly run into a whole new channel, keeping as far away from the defender as possible without going backwards (often this is directly sideways!), with the important bit being to straighten up to start gaining ground as soon as possible.  Give it a try!

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A few years ago, I kept a blog of occasional thoughts but have since let it lapse.  Recently, I’ve come to form some strong opinions about coaching and have shared them with colleagues but also wanted to get the message out there to anyone else who cared to listen.

Even if only a handful of people ever look at this site, I at least want to use it to express ideas, share resources, and wrestle with new developments.  The intent is to continue my growth as a coach by establishing my philosophies on where the game was, where it is, and where it is going.  I hope you can get as much out of this project as I intend to.

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