Written by Andre Snyman    Thursday, 05 April 2012 16:17    PDF Print Write e-mail
Coaching: Getting the Basics Down
RUGBYmag Premier - Coaching

Growing up in South Africa I was incredibly fortunate to be able to play rugby at a very young age. Throughout my time in school, I played rugby all the time – and we were always playing with a ball – playing touch, practicing, having fun.

It’s that kind of experience that gives players from rugby-playing nations what seems like an innate ability to play the game. It’s not the flashy plays, it’s the basic skills that make teams successful, and it’s what American rugby struggles with.

Andre SnymanAndré Snyman is the Glendale RFC Men’s 15s technical advisor and head coach of the 7s program. André retired from professional rugby in April 2007 after enjoying a successful ten-year playing career at an international level for the South African Springboks. During his professional tenure, André played for the Blue Bulls and Sharks rugby franchises in South Africa as well as the Leeds Rugby Football Club in England. His defending and attacking abilities on the pitch throughout his career earned him a formidable reputation and he has transitioned this same experience and understanding of the game to coaching. André started his coaching career with the Varsity Old Boys Club in his hometown of Durban, South Africa, soon after retiring from professional rugby. In June 2011, André relocated to the United States to join Glendale RFC and is enjoying the experience immensely. André is an avid golfer who also enjoys fishing. Spending time with his family is something André lists as important to him and he is enjoying watching his young children growing and experiencing life. Traveling and getting to know different cultures is a pastime that excites André and he is very committed to his new life and opportunity in the U.S.

Taku Ngwenya looking to pass under pressure. Numina Photo.

Working with players in Glendale, even very experienced players, I have found that everyone needs work on basic skills. Catching, passing, drawing the man and passing to the teammate in space; these are the basic building blocks of the game, and must be practiced regularly.

When you’re a kid out in the yard, that’s what you do. You play and practice catching and passing, and it’s fun. It can still be fun, but it’s still hard work trying to forget habits from other sports. Basketball certainly brings some of the passing and decision-making skills that are required in rugby (the game was, after all invented by a rugby coach). But gridiron football can instill bad habits – it’s not a game where everyone passes. And unless you’re the quarterback, you’re not assessing a lot of different options at one time.

But practicing passing and catching isn’t any good if you don’t do it right. You have to practice the right technique. Even if your pass only goes five yards using the right technique, and you can pass it further using a different method, you need to practice the right techniques. In the long run, I promise, your passing will get much, much better, and more dependable.

Here are some things you can do:
Get a tennis ball or soccer ball and throw it against the ball. Using a rugby passing motion (and keeping your arms close to your body) pass against the wall and watch the ball again. This will train you to be ready to catch at any moment, and as you work on this, you will be able to control your passing better.

Change it up – make the ball bounce after it hits the wall, or make it bounce before it hits the wall.

Later, switch to a rugby ball. With its odd shape the rugby ball will bounce unpredictably off the wall. You have to react quickly. But after a while you will be able to control the ball better as you pass it.

This is an excellent activity to do when you have no one to help you.

If you have a friend with you, take some time to practice your passing. Anyone will know what a good pass is – in fact, if the person you’re with isn’t good at catching the ball or isn’t agile, all the better. It will be up to you to pass so they can catch it.

Some things to Remember
When you lift a heavy weight, you bring your arms close to your body to have more power. The same with passing a rugby ball. When your arms are closer to your body, you have more power in your pass.

Don’t fall away from the pass. Pass on the front foot. Almost every sport is played on the front foot, and rugby is not different. Lean forward to make your pass.

Don’t give up. Even if your passing is not as good as you’d like it to be, work on the right technique and it will get better.