Discover why dedicated Tag Rugby sessions are essential when coaching mini rugby
What's involved in coaching mini-rugby?
The list of requirements for a mini-rugby coach is long. You need to be patient. You need to be energetic. You need to be alert. Some people feel the most important thing is that you need to have a good understanding of what rugby is and how you play it. I don't think that is the case, at a mini rugby level I am a strong believer in nurturing natural running, looking for space, evading a defender.... pretty much how kids play when they are left alone in the playground at school. Each player should have minimal structure added to their game, by all means explain the rules and encourage them to follow these rules but not at the expense of their enjoyment. Let the ball be passed forward from time to time, don't be strict with off-side, never be negative when a child makes a mistake and, at the other end of the scale, always point out when they do something really well. They need to know what good looks like, they will instinctively know when they make a mistake. They need to fall in love with the game!!
What role does 'Tag Rugby' play?
Tag Rugby teaches kids skills they don't get an opportunity to practice at a traditional contact mini rugby session. When children reach P4 (7 years of age) they are introduced to 'tackling'. Because of the need to ensure they learn to tackle safely, a large percentage of their training session is taken up with this one skill set. I agree this needs to be coached very carefully and thoroughly. My point is, at this age, kids should be concentrating on those skills that enhance flair, free running and evasion. These skills are not given the focus they deserve at this tender age and I feel kids miss out. This is why I have introduced structured kids Tag Rugby sessions with IRFU qualified coaches. Our aim is to make sure mini rugby players are given the skills that will enhance their contact game. When kids play Tag Rugby, they adopt a different mindset, it is one of evasion, looking for space, contact does not even cross their minds because it is removed from the game. This mindset is a massive factor that is very difficult to develop in a contact environment.
It is clear from coaching both Tag and contact mini-rugby, those players that play contact mini rugby on a Saturday in addition to Tag Rugby on a Tuesday evening have vastly superior running and handling skills than those that just play contact on a Saturday. My son is the perfect example of this. Since playing Tag Rugby, in addition to his contact sessions, his contact game has improved immeasurably. The fact that I have added a mid-week rugby coaching session to his schedule is a contributing factor to this performance improvement.
What Tag Rugby is also great for is introducing boys and girls to the game of rugby. The physical nature of the sport, particularly at the P4 stage, is known to put lots of kids off the sport. Their bodies are at varying levels of maturity and some kids are just not ready for the collisions. They may be ready for this in a couple of years and so Tag Rugby is the ideal game to keep these players close the sport, build their skill sets, whilst they develop physically.