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As I dig through the podcasts I feel are worth sharing, with my reflections on moments that impacted me, the next on the list has some lessons that were recently promoted by an official sport governing body. The president of Hockey Canada has urged young kids (and their parents / coaches) to take a break from hockey this summer and do something else. It’s a powerful statement from my country’s most high profile sport and one where kids – not just teens on the cusp of the professional levels – are doing the ‘extras’ all year long in a quest to ‘make it’. I think other sports have already gone this route and rugby is just starting to, which is worrying to me.

In this interview, physical therapist Brett Fischer talks about the injuries were are now seeing in kids that were never before seen because they’re doing too much of the same thing. I also find it uplifting to hear that top draft picks are still multi-sport and that professional sports teams are not afraid to have fun and laugh. Some coaches run training like it’s a military boot camp (and in a future blog post, I’ll compile a bunch of statements I’ve found in old military manuals from half a century ago and more that suggests even back then things weren’t like a ‘military boot camp’ either!).

Below are my time-referenced notes on the podcast:

8:10 – 13:00…

If all sports played in water, would teach to swim correctly? Do we teach kids to run, jump, etc correctly now? Is this generation getting it in PE / recess because they certainly do not engage in free play as much because of how much screen time they have? In sport, tend to give them sport-specific skills younger and younger. Seeing surgeries that kids never got in the old days. (Any Given Monday book.) Not just parents wanting to push, but also fear they’re not keeping up is a significant driver.

13:10 – 18:00…

2017 NFL draft, 30 of 32 first rounders played multiple sports in high school [very similar numbers for 2018 draft]. 90% of the entire 7 round draft group played multiple sports. Ohio State selected 42 of 47 multi-sport athletes. Would be great to see more research around transferable skills, because it’s probably relevant. Even true that pros get time off and if not other sports due to contractual limitations, likely doing things like yoga, martial arts, etc to help movement. Brett sees kids who don’t even have three weeks off in their sport a year. Mental, social, movement benefits.

… in between …

Lots of great stuff about preparation for movement, physiotherapy, and educating parents …

35:30 – 36:35…

Helicopter parents and kids who don’t want to do the sport anymore or who are desperate for a break. For those who still have the goal, mixing it up and taking care of the body is best.

45:10…

“Back in my day …” … but back in the day, kids didn’t play the same sport year-round!

47:50 – 52:35…

How NFL players have fun, laugh in the game, etc compared to high schools taking it too seriously. Enjoying competition and having fun can co-exist; struggle isn’t always pleasurable and fun doesn’t mean being frivolous. Do things that kids like! Mini games can still be sport-relevant. Coach has to think about game design to get both.

 

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Professional teams use systems, patterns and sequences, largely, because today’s defences tend to offer no easy attacking opportunities. Their well-drilled ‘basics’ and way the game is refereed tends to favour the attacking team, so they can get away with stringing together a couple dozen phases or more of smashing into the defensive line, patiently waiting for their opponents to make a defensive error or give away a penalty. (Frankly, I am increasingly getting bored with it.)

At the amateur level, however, defences are not so well drilled and on pretty much every phase there are opportunities to exploit. I also believe it’s up to those of us who work with kids and teens to foster their understanding of the game and to help them become skilfully adaptable. Even if they do not go any higher or do graduate into a coach-led, rigidly-structured system, the beauty of rugby – I think – is in how skilful players coordinate themselves to overcome the chaos of it. Amid this potential chaos, to provide the players with some guidance, I try and keep things simple and focus more on principles and guidelines, not rules. These help players follow a general course of action and suggests where to go in a given moment. Once that decision is made, they rely on their understanding of tactical elements (depth, width, angles, timing) and execute skilfully to create a linebreak or get beyond the gain line.

I have covered building an attacking strategy on the principles of play before, but have more recently developed some ideas on strategic guidelines as an alternative to rigid game plans, patterns, sequences and systems. The following are not rules players must follow, but options that allow them to discover workable solutions on their own, anticipating and acting upon their environment, and demonstrating or developing their adaptability through various skills. This is central to my coaching philosophy because I want the players I work with to be able to play successful and attractive rugby without me telling them what to do. I am happiest to hear when they go on to play for someone else and are just as aware, adaptable, and analytic as when I was working with them.

Strategic guidelines serve several purposes for any level of athlete:

  1. Provide focus and clarifies objectives
  2. Provide a limited number of options for a recognised scenario
  3. Provide a ‘fall back’ option under extreme pressure, when obvious options aren’t apparent

Generally speaking, I ask the players to consider the following, from a state whereby defenders are disorganised to one where they are more organised.

Strategic objectives when space is available:

  • Go Through (gaps between defenders)
  • Go Around (space out wide, or around the wall of defenders ahead of the rest)
  • Get Behind (by kicking, in between or behind those responsible for coverage)

Strategic objectives when space isn’t so apparent:

  • Shift the defence (move their concentration to one side, or establish a breakdown and beat them around the corner)
  • Drive them back (move back far enough that they have to reorganise, even better if they have to turn to get back onisde)
  • Chase and pressure (kick may go to waiting opponents, but the chase puts them under immense pressure, forcing them to return possession to us with defenders scattered or through a set piece)

Which path the players take is up to them based upon who they have and what they see in a given moment. Players that recognise opportunities must communicate this information to the decision makers quickly and clearly so they can consider / act upon it. It goes without saying that it’s vital for them to train under realistic conditions so they can recognise opportunities and test out solutions. It’s impossible to do this in drills and only randomly done in large, open games without constraints. Otherwise, you are treating game day as a training exercise.

When deciding upon which is the best, the most essential question is: Where is it easy to play? (i.e. Where are we most likely to achieve a linebreak with the least amount of effort / risk?)

Some specific questions for players to consider are:

Who are our best available strike weapons and are they in a good position at the moment? Is there a more efficient option to take right now that either buys them time or sets them up on a later phase?

Where is the space? Who is best placed to run into it? (Ball carrier to run into or is a pass to someone else better?) Where will the defence be by the time the ball gets there?

Where are there mismatches we can exploit? Quick player vs slow player? Big player vs smaller player? Have we discovered any consistently poor defenders / tacklers? Is someone well out of position and/or carrying an injury? (not to further injure that person, but someone carrying a limp and too prideful to sub off is going to be easy to run around)

A clear linebreak is an invitation for support to funnel through quickly and communicate with the ball carrier as to where continuity can be maintained.

Where clear opportunities for a linebreak do not exist, players can rely upon some universal aspects of rugby to re-establish a state of disorganisation where they are more likely to occur.

Shifting: If we move over there, they will follow us over there. If they are not there quick enough, we can beat them around the corner. If they do get there at about the same time, we might have dragged them away from and created space where we started.

Essential elements:

  • Considered width and speed / accuracy of passing to get it there (does not require a first receiver to be wide so long as the passes are accurate).
  • Quick and efficient recycle so next phase is starting while opposition are moving into place / just getting set.
  • A significant portion of your team ready to exploit the space available / created. If everyone flows to the action area and some have to withdraw and re-align themselves, this will give the opposition time to set up themselves.

Driving Back: Where defences are well-disciplined, we want to march them back and re-establish a scenario in which we can look for ‘easy’ opportunities. The more we move them back, the more disorganised they will be / the more time they will need to get organised. (Ideal: defenders turn and have to run back to get onside. Less efficient: If they only have to take a step back and shuffle. Not ideal: They are making tackles behind the gain line.)

Essential elements:

  • Running onto the pass to catch defenders on / close to the offside line and having momentum to change direction suddenly / power step / power into opposition.
  • Close support to bind on and drive through contact / receive offload / clear out ruck.
  • Quick recycle and transfer of the ball, hopefully to exploit a disorganised state, or to continue building momentum as per the previous phase.

While catching up on a bunch of recent episodes from the Perception & Action Podcast, I thought I might compile some of my thoughts on them as they relate to how we design effective training sessions.

The first of these focused on the rate of change in an athlete’s performance due to practice. Ep. 84 – Time Scales in Motor Learning

1:58 … We learn things at different rates and we do not learn at a consistent rate, experiencing periods of stagnation and even regression, with occasional lurches back to the norm or beyond. Some also progress faster than others. I think it’s important for coaches to be aware of this and help athletes not to get discouraged if things aren’t improving as quick as one would hope or if there are moments where they seem to go backwards. It’s all part of a normal learning process.

6:55 … “Warm-Up Decrement” is the time it takes someone to get back to an already-achieved level of performance when revisiting a known task. It’s probably not due to loss of ability, but in not being adequately prepared for the task at hand. So, it’s important that athletes be appropriately aroused for the task, focused on the right learning objectives and to have realistic expectations for the task’s procedure and possible outcomes. If a coach throws athletes into an activity with no mental preparation, they will waste time just figuring out what they’re supposed to do.

8:45 … When we over-do an activity, we will see a decline in performance over time. The phenomenon of “reminiscence” is when we see a return to a normal level of performance when returning to it after a period of rest. Fatigue certainly is a factor, but people can improve upon previous ‘best’ after re-starting the task later. This is common among rugby kickers who do well for the first few, dip in quality even after just a few, but then return to kicking well after doing another task in between. (Dave Alred seems to only let his kickers and golfers do just a few in a row before they have to do something else, and then return to a short set of shots, etc. etc.). So why do we improve?

Prof. Gray: “When we start with a different set of initial conditions, it encourages a performer to take a different route through perceptual motor space to find the appropriate movement solution. When we keep the conditions the same, the performer will settle at a locally optimal solution that it may be difficult to get out of.”  (11:39)

11:58 … This is why athlete-centred coaching is so effective. We consider each as a unique individual with specific needs and that relishes a new challenge. It’s breathing air into a fire to stoke the flames rather than adding yet another log onto one that’s down to just coals. It may keep going at the same rate doing so, but it’ll never grow without stirring it up and allowing it to breathe.

I think it’s important to consider this when warming up for a training session. Is doing the same old thing really sparking athletes for the challenges and learning to come? Without a doubt, it’s important for athletes to get loose and get the blood flowing, but this can be done in countless different ways. I give credit to the last team I coached on this: they were okay with spending 10 minutes at the start of every session doing some kind of fun game – even kids games! – that had them moving in many directions at a high tempo. I can’t think that anyone ever pulled a muscle and it really sold me that the traditional dynamic warm-up wasn’t completely necessary.

This podcast also highlighted how a varied approach better prepares the brain for optimal learning.

 

Ashley Merryman’s chat with Jeremy Boone on his Coach Your Best podcast back in 2014 was especially insightful to me when I first heard it because I was coaching women at the time. What she found in the research on coaching men vs women and other issues is well worth listening to. My favourite points occur at the time spots noted below…

Ashley Merryman 1 – Coach Your Best Podcast

7:35 Playing to win versus playing ‘not to lose’. Focused on doing the things needed to be successful versus doing things to avoid failure. Ambition versus conservatism.

12:00 – 18:50 Challenge State versus Threat State. Something you think you can be successful at compared to something you’re doubtful of. Both have physiological manifestations… blood vessels expand, blood pressure low oxygen travels better, stored glucose burned better in Challenge State. Blood vessels shrink, glucose in blood stream burned, lungs tighten in Threat State. Cortisol is produced under stress and peaks about 20 minutes after the event. Difficult to recover from, and need to be mindful how one might be able to calm self out of the stressful event. Might be possible to frame a potential stressor better from the onset, taking on the challenge rather than fall into a threat state.

Ashley Merryman 2 – Coach Your Best Podcast

3:35 – 5:10 Positive Thinking. An absolute positive outlook can prevent someone from dealing with problems when they arise. Must be able to think of possible roadblocks and strategies to overcome them. This is a key element in personal and team goal setting.

14:18 – 17:54 Testosterone = aggression is not true. Hormone of motivation, social status. Depends on the value(s) needed for the situation. Could be aggression if that’s what’s called for, but could also be cooperative if that’s the ideal demand. Firefighters and Paramedics both would show high testosterone for rushing into a burning building and calmly dealing with injured people.

20:25 – 24:38 Testosterone boosts prior to challenge / competition can help preparedness, realising and preparing for the Challenge State. Ties into clarity, purpose, focus. Social status seems to reduce – not wanting to defeat friends, for example.

Ashley Merryman 3 – Coach Your Best Podcast

2:25 – 4:28 Generic praise can lead to under-achieving (Carol Dweck’s research). Works until kids experience failure, basing their ability on ‘innate skill’. ‘Other people need to practice, not me.’ Realisation of truth can be really hurtful. ‘So I’m NOT that good???’

9:20 – 12:30 Kids are good at understanding false praise. Best to encourage – not the same as praise – and ask how we can help. Danger of false praise is that genuine critical feedback can be ignored as much as the well-meant lie. Also not an invitation to be hurtful and unnecessarily critical.

14:45 – 18:20 Trophies are a part of empty / false praise. Novices should not be given trophies. Every contest is a competition to the participants and they do not need a physical representative of it in the form of a trophy / medals / etc. for the win. Performance / achievement related to the challenge is more important.

22:10 – 22:37 Elite athletes care more about getting better. Specific feedback is desired, and might want criticism more because they already know what they are good at and want information that will help them get better.

24:48 – 26:16 No need to praise someone who’s in the zone. Can even throw them off with focus being diverted to the person delivering praise.

28:12 – 28:50 Give athletes the ability to decide themselves what’s important before the season begins.

Ashley Merryman 4 – Coach Your Best Podcast

4:21 Gender differences less important than individual capabilities relative to their competitors.

5:10 – 8:00 Possible that women are more likely to calculate odds of success and compete when they feel they have a good chance at winning. Men more likely to take risks without considering the odds so carefully. Women more likely to be under-confident; men over-confident.

8:30 – 14:10 Boys function in groups, comfortable with diversity. Girls in pairs and look for commonality. Might need to encourage to interact with more than just ‘best friend’.

14:10 – 17:25 Girls worry about sticking out from the group, even if it’s being better than their peers. Girls can develop a performance standard that includes everyone in the group. Coaches must be aware of this possibility and encourage them to push beyond for their own sake and the sake of the team (everyone else will do this as well).

19:12 On average, women less willing to join a team. Fear bringing the team down.

21:15 – 25:50 The more elite the athlete, less worried about sticking out. More than males, interested in feedback relationship with coach. “What do you think?” more powerful than critique because women are self-aware and probably their own worst critic. Might need to reel in things that are unnecessarily harsh! Coach must make sure women know they are valued as people.

27:15 – 31:04 Self esteem tied to social status with girls. Remember that no one wants to be lower than the group, especially in a public environment. Important to value that individual and help them through solutions that can raise ability in a 1 on 1. Also has negative effect on others; care about that individual, fear they will be next (Threat State!)

In this chat between Stuart Armstrong and Jonathan Henderson, Academy Manager from Bristol Rovers FC, they start off with a good discussion about providing athletes with more ‘play’ opportunities. Many years ago, it was impressed upon me from a coach education article that kids don’t participate in as much unstructured play as they used to.

https://www.spreaker.com/user/9625186/jonathan-henderson-remastered

From 11:47, Stuart poses that coaches almost have to provide unstructured game opportunities because they can’t trust that it’s happening amongst kids at recess, after school, at the weekend, etc and later he makes the point that, at best, you’d see individuals or a few kids at best, working on blocked practice. This is purely anecdotal, but as a country kid, I rarely had the chance to play with neighbourhood kids when I was young. I could kick a ball against the house, shoot hoops on my own or throw the (American) football/baseball on the roof and field it as it rolled off. While those helped me with some of the technical aspects of the sports I liked, it certainly didn’t help me deal with 1v1 scenarios where I often crumbled under pressure in a real game or, at best, would thrive in low-pressure situations.

At 16:40, Stuart drops the idea of “tact-nicians” rather than “technicians” – athletes who can select from a range of skills rather than apply proficient, single-pattern technique to every situation. I think the key to helping athletes develop true skill is to give them realistic challenges that cause them to explore a range of solutions to problems they find in their sport. It seems to be a mis-guided belief that you can become technically perfect in isolation from context and pressure and then apply that to the conditions of the game. Though this method has been done for ages there’s plenty of research out there that points toward this method being non-conducive to adaptability (i.e. can pass well, in general, but might not be able to adapt to a high-pressure situation and consistently pick the best pass for that situation). I suspect that, in the past, top athletes became great “tact-nicians” despite this apparently not-so-efficient blocked method of training because they’d had a LOT of experience with unstructured play in their lives, from children all the way to adulthood, playing many different games and picking up the ability to anticipate, read, select the best tool, execute with great timing, etc. My wonder is if kids who only ever participate in structured coach-led activities develop this to that degree? Those who have great coaching from a young age possibly will and the big worry for me is how many kids miss the opportunity to enjoy sport and become good at it because of restrictive coaching and the current culture of not participating in unstructured sport with relatively large groups of people.

There’s certainly something to be said about becoming so technically proficient that you can then assess a situation without worrying about technique, but why not mesh the two in our training sessions? I fully believe you can work on technique in the context of a pressured and game-like activity. The concept of ‘task deconstruction’ vs ‘task simplification’ comes into play here and I think it’s a very important distinction for even beginning coaches to understand. Instead of having rugby players stand in a line and fire one-handed passes at each other for 10 minutes, create a little 2v2 game where they have to explore space and pick the right pass for the scenario. They also allow for a lot of reps when you take your group of, say, 20 kids and have them set up four or five mini games that they self-manage (making the space as big as they want and even adapting it for a different challenge part-way through). A couple I’ve used are a ‘front ball v back ball’ game that puts both sides in many different scenarios based upon start position and reaction time, and another where the toss of a die (with tactical constraints written on each face) determines the scenario with very little time for planning. I’ve not being doing such things for years, so haven’t really a significant level of analysis and response, but the athletes I coach certainly find such things more fun and engaging that static, context-free, blocked drills.

From about 40 mins or so onward, I also found it interesting to hear an Academy coach talk about competitive fixtures being important, but that results didn’t matter as much as development. I’m sure the majority of coaches say something similar, but how many put it into practice as such? My only experience with an ‘academy’ was coaching a team that was one in name only. Technically, it was the club’s 2nd XV side but there was no league for them so the youngsters (and a few vets who didn’t care to be first-teamers) were entered into the same league as the club’s 1st XV. The odds were already stacked against the lads given their relative lack of experience and size, but we took each game as an opportunity to measure ourselves not on the scoreline (even though we won a couple of games and ran a couple of more quite close), but on the things we’d worked on in training. One of the highlights of the season for them came despite conceding something like a 5-70 scoreline against a top of the table team. The double digit turnovers they’d won, after we’d spent the week working on choke tackles, jackals and other ways of contesting possession, gave them something to be proud of. The lads treated every turnover as if they’d scored a try, celebrating wildly once the ref’s whistle blew and, now that I think of it, I reckon we had more of those than they scored tries. I couldn’t have been happier hearing them after the game relishing in all of those moments (and ignoring the fact that many led to turnovers in the other direction because the opposition had a massive advantage over us in the scrum).

With a proper focus on what matters most to the team, designing training sessions not to win games but to achieve success in things we can manage, players can more easily and genuinely realise success and learn even despite lopsided scores.

Changing Formats!!!

If you follow the blog for technical, tactical, and strategic info, I’m happy to inform you that I’ve finally condensed all of what’s been written here and included much, much, MUCH more into a stand-alone website.

Here it is:  https://rugbyguide.ca/

I still intend to keep the blog, however, and am going to try and add content more often. The new direction I’d like to take will be more on the ‘conversational’ side of the somewhat awkward title I chose so many years ago. I listen to a lot of podcasts, stumble upon great interviews and lectures on youtube, and come across all kinds of other coaching goodies via twitter and am going to share and reflect upon them here.

I hope you find value in this but if you’re purely into rugby-content, do head over to the site!  Thanks for your support!

Rob

[Note: I had two posts on this topic a while ago and after re-visiting, didn’t think they were clear enough or at best had way too much information. They have been removed and this is the – hopefully! – simplified version.]

A Simple Structure for Dynamic Play

Structure gives players a focus and a plan of action they can rely upon when defences do not offer easy opportunities to exploit. Heads-up, free play allows athletes a chance to show their skill, both as individuals and combined in pairs, threes, or in larger collaborative units. Both attacking strategies have their limitations, however. Rigidly-structured play can make players to worry too much about their positioning within ‘the plan’, causing them to miss easy opportunities that emerge. Heads-up play can be random and hand initiative to the opposition, especially when individuals go alone or players find themselves not knowing where to be. The obvious solution should be to combine the two strategies.

This simple ‘structure’ is more of a guideline that gives players a clear idea of where to go and what they can do when they get there, but still allows them the freedom to exploit opportunities as they emerge and play to their strengths. Note: everything that follows assumes that every breakdown is well-defended and that there are no immediate opportunities to exploit (overlap, gap, mismatch, etc.). This pattern of play, however, seeks to create such opportunities every single phase, so scanning for them should be the first thing done when a breakdown occurs.

This structure is based on an understanding that each set piece or breakdown has two attacking channels, each with its own possibilities and limitations. A set piece or breakdown outside of the 15m lines has a wide Open Side and a Short Side. Between the two 15m lines, there will be two Split Midfield channels that are obviously not as wide as the Open Side, nor as narrow as the Short Side.

Channels

As a tackle contest emerges and a breakdown is about to form, players not needed there adopt an attacking shape and scan for opportunities in BOTH available channels. The playmakers should be able to attack either side of the breakdown, so it’s important that players work quickly to get re-aligned. The tactic those players choose to go through or around the defence will be based on several important factors:

  • the space available
  • the personnel present and the shape they have adopted
  • the amount of defenders present and their shape

With all of those things considered, the tactic should really choose itself! (If you need to turn a screw at one end of a board and saw a bit off the other end, you wouldn’t choose a wrench and a hammer to do the work.) It’s vital that players train for this under game conditions, understanding how they can best use and create space with any given group of teammates. This will allow them to develop a ‘tactical tool box’ of solutions to familiar problems they will encounter in the game.

We have, then, a structure that allows players to know that they are going to align themselves ‘here’ or ‘there’ at each breakdown. Two other factors help players know where we’re likely to go next. When we’ve assessed that the breakdown is well defended, we want to move away from it quickly and play in space. Thinking about the four different channels that exist, it should also become clear that attacks from a midfield set piece or breakdown typically result in an Open Side / Short Side scenario. Open Side attacks result in a Split Midfield or another Open Side / Short Side, and attacks down the Short Side always result in a large Open Side.

Playmakers or players providing them with tactical feedback can simply call Wide, Middle, Tight, or Short to launch a focused attack from the Open Side. When teams play into the middle of the pitch, they will either go Same Way or Rewind and play in the direction the ball originated. Below is the way this structure can play out, starting from a lineout:

Channel Options 2

Again, this structure is based on moving the ball to space and avoiding congested breakdowns that typically result in little gain / disruption of the defensive line. With that in mind, it also becomes clear that there is no sense running more than two phases in the same direction (unless there is a clear opportunity, of course). There won’t be a reasonable amount of space to achieve those two principle aims. Knowing that we’re only going ‘that way’ once or twice also allows players to conserve energy and set up the next phase quicker. For example, from the scenario above, players who were in the lineout and closest to the touchline might possibly be called upon for a Rewind after the first phase. If not, they would likely be involved in a Middle Left or Wide Left move after the second phase. They wouldn’t go Short Side or Tight as the time needed to get there would allow defenders time to organise themselves. This is very common in rugby – players moving across the pitch to a breakdown and taking time to get set, only to face defenders who are ready and waiting to pounce. Even worse, players who are unsure of what’s going to happen on the next phase move all the way over and end up leaning on rucks or aren’t used at all and have to go back to where they might have stayed. This structure is efficient in its simplicity.

In this video below, you can see how each play essentially provides the team in black with a 1-2 attacking punch. A purposeful and well-supported attacking move manipulates the defence in a certain way. The next phase, also purposeful and well-supported, then exploits that manipulation (more space for talented individual(s), defenders stretched or condensed, individuals out of position, defenders over-committing to one side of the ruck, etc.). Effective attack in just a few phases, and the ability to re-set with another 1-2 punch if that didn’t work, is the beauty of this style of play.

 

 

This strategy typically plays out as follows:

  1. From a set piece (or at a point in open play where we need to re-focus), we choose a move that plays to our strengths.
  2. At the next ruck, and every ruck henceforth, we do a quick scan to see if there is a clear and immediate opportunity to exploit (overlap, mismatch, poor defender, poor alignment, etc.).
  3. If not, we then play to one of two channels that gives us the best possible chance of breaching the defensive line from a position of strength. BOTH sides of the ruck need to be ready to play:
  • Open Side
  • Short Side

or

  • Split Left
  • Split Right
  1. Whichever channel we choose, the players must then consider the best tactic for the space, their numbers and shape, and the skills those players possess.
  • Go Around – a wide move exploit defenders with evasive running, isolate outside defender, draw defenders in and outflank with passing
  • Go Through – a middle or tight move to exploit defenders with evasive running, exploit space with angled runs, power through defenders
  • Get Behind – is a kick worth it at this stage? If the chances of scoring or retaining possession aren’t high, then rely on one of the first two options and allow players in the next phase to have a go.
  1. Players not involved in that phase need to follow the previous play in case they are needed to support a linebreak. If a new breakdown is formed, they then need to quickly re-align themselves in one of the two new attacking channels, repeating the cycle over again.
  2. As a general rule, when defenders are getting re-organised reasonably quickly, a team should not go more than two phases (three if there’s an opportunity down the short side) in the same direction. The aim is to attack space quickly from a position of strength and before the defence has time to set up. At some point, you will run out of space worth using and waste time getting organised for it, handing the advantage to the opposition.

 

Here are some further examples with some notes on how the first phase created an advantageous opportunity on the second: