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Archive for July, 2012

Spin Passing

I couldn’t see that I’ve already covered this, but it never hurts to re-visit this basic skill.  I’m an advocate of all players being able to spin pass, though it’s not to say they SHOULD!  I still think the non-spinning push pass is the one that should be used most often as it’s easier to employ, easier to catch, and takes little time.  It’s ideal for passes up to, and beyond if the passer can keep it flat, 5m – which accounts for most passes in the game.  Another pet peeve of mine for those who over-use the spin pass is that not only is it slower to deliver, or delivered too hard for the distance being covered, but spin passes over short distances tend to be over-rotated, which actually makes the ball fly slower than a classic flat push pass.

But when a wide opportunity calls for a long pass or to allow the receiver to stand wider, and away from the blob of defenders around the ruck, for example, the spin pass is a great technique to have in one’s repertoire.  I also encourage forwards to do so to keep our attack moving quickly and if the scrum half isn’t in position.  Keven Mealamu from the All Blacks is very good at this, as is Richie McCaw, helping the All Blacks be as amazing as they are in between phases.  I’ll cover passing from the ground in a subsequent post, though, and focus this on the standing spin pass.

Especially with kids, I try and keep teaching it down to just a few key elements.  We do this by isolating other body movement factors and focus just on one handed passing, standing still.

My key elements are:

1. Must have a solid grip of the ball with the passing hand, with fingers out stretched to the rear third of the ball (where exactly can depend on comfort and size of hand, and while there may be a more exact science I learned by just adjusting slightly until I found the best spot, and it seems to work for the teens / adults I coach.  Some prefer more underneath, some on the side.  Some more to the back of the ball, some more to the middle.)

2. Two-thirds to three-quarters of the action is the arm ‘snapping’ out quickly from a low position, near the hip toward the target.

3. The twist comes in the last third/quarter and I even tell the adults, that it’s like turn a door knob inward.  The thumb should start by pointing toward the target and upon release – turning the knob – should be pointed straight down.

4. Finally, the follow through must be toward the outstretched hands of the receiver.  Where the receivers hands end up pointing often gives an idea of where the pass will go.  In my opinion, they should be aiming to pass the ball flat, rather than with the front pointed up, as the ball is more likely to fly straight to it’s target.  (I’ve noticed that a lot of tip-up passes continue to rise and end up around head-height too often.)

Hosea Gear has the twist and follow-through here, hands together pointed at the target:

We do two passing drills which emphasise this as well as the shoulder rotation.  Partners stand in line with each other, but face opposite directions (i.e. if on a goal line, one facing in-field, the other in-goal) and are spread out at a comfortable distance apart.  Receiver has hands stretched out and toward the passer, who has to rotate his/her torso to put the ball on the target.  If still working just the one hand, I say to stand with the backside leg slightly forward and rest the ball on top of the thigh.

We then transition into going it in groups, adding two pairs together and walking down field in fours, still just using the one hand and focusing on all the elements above, but also making the pass at a point where the hip is ‘open’ to the receiver, allowing for a better rotation of the hip / torso.

When adding pace and distance to the pass, I find many players ignore the rotation / open hip aspect and their passes either don’t have the distance or drift forward.  While I don’t want them running across field, I stress that there’s no shame in ending up facing the touch line after following through because if a spin pass is actually needed, then the passer probably isn’t immediately needed for inside support as the opportunity is much wider (otherwise, a normal push pass would do)

All his showboating aside, Quade Cooper’s one of the best long, flat passers in the game today, showing good form here.  Note back elbow up, eyes on target and hip open to the target:

For the girls I coached, who didn’t have the arm strength, I said it was okay to even take a step into the pass, going sideways, to get some body weight momentum behind it.  I’d be willing to bet that’s what Berrick Barnes is doing in the photo below, and it already gets the passer heading in a secondary support line to fall in behind the players out wide who’ve been delivered the ball.  (Rather than those who pass and watch the play unfold like a quarterback.)

… you can also see how Berrick Barnes seems to prefer to have his hand more to the middle of the ball, while above you can see above that Cooper has his toward the back …

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