Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What I don't like about 'round the corner drills and what to do about it ...

This past weekend was another big Coach Development Program weekend. Nearly 80 coaches converged on Washington DC, and I got to see all sorts of coaches work their craft.

One of the staples in every coaches tool kit is the "around the corner" drills. You know, there is a big grid, the players stand in two lines on on edge of the grid, defense hands the ball to offense, and the players run round their respective corners.

This format is used for 2 v 1, 3 v 2, etc etc etc.

As i watched, and even took my turn coaching some round the corner stuff, I started to wonder if maybe there are some fundamental flaws with the format. Bear in mind that this is only MY humble opinion ...

First, lets take a picture of the standard "around the corner" setup.

1. A (attacker) and D (defenders) are typically lined up waiting for their turn at the activity. This particular vantage point is not conducive to observing the activity in progress. A better observation point might be the "try zones". From here players can see the impact that varying angles of run have with greater clarity.

2. Right to left - left to right. It is way to easy to let all the work happen from only one side. In other words, if the coach doesn't make a conscious effort to flip flop the players, you'll always have everyone passing off of the same hand and tackling off the same shoulder.

3. Defense hands the ball to the Attackers. I just don't like this, MENTALLY. Seriously, I know its just a convenient and easy way to start the exercise, but when does defense every hand the ball to offense? I like offense to get the balls, and be completely responsible for that. Just my preference.

4. Pinning the defender(s) vs Moving the defender (s).

Normally, when this is coached, we tell the initial ball carrier (A1) to run at the defenders inside shoulder, and pin him. That's all well and good, but short of an effective dummy pass, the ball carrier is no longer a serious threat to beat the defender running because they have not created any space. In fact, when we coach the exercise this way, if the initial ball carrier is late to pass, its almost effortless for the defender to push them out of bounds. Really, would we ever coach a ball carrier to run THAT CLOSE to the sidelines if they didn't really need to?

5. For the support player, this is painfully predictable. In this scenario, the second attacker (A2) nearly ALWAYS winds up receiving a lateral pass wide. There's no real decision here, no creativity. The support player is involved only in execution - they don't have to make any decisions, just catch the ball. It becomes, after a while, pretty robotic.

Here's one easy way to open up the basic 2 v 1 a little bit:

1. Instead of lining players up and having them go "round the corner", have them enter the grid through the tryzones. It's a better place for observing the activity, and it gives them a view of the space that is alot closer to what they'll see during a rugby match.

2. Entering from the tryzone allows the ball carrier a whole range of options. They can work on their 1 v 1 running skills and actually work to MOVE a defender, rather than just PIN a defender. They might even beat a defender.

3. With the Attacker's options opened up, the support player has to make decisions. Vertical support? Lateral support left? Lateral support right? Close? Far?

4. With two players now making decisions and using all the available space, the defender is challenged. Should they pressure, or be patient? Left shoulder or right shoulder? Maybe they should get in the passing lane?

Another variation on the standard 2 v 1 involves the coach, or possibly an injured player, putting the ball into the grid. This way you introduce a handling element (it could be a tossed high ball, or a ball let loose on the ground), and varies the space and time that both the offense and defense have to make their decisions. If you have new players who need more time to process, you can give them the ball way back in the tryzone. Want to challenge a more experienced player? Have them field a loose ball much closer to the defender.

Now, my FAVORITE way to train 2 v 1 is with something I refer to as a continuous game. I LOVE continuous games. It's my #1 practice tool.

First, you divide the players into two even groups - in the illustration below, there's a RED team and a BLUE team. Each team is assigned an end to defend. A coach or other facilitor acts as a referee. Instead if discrete repetitions, the teams take turns running 2 v 1s, with the referee managing and keeping score. It's important not to overcoach, and to just let them play. The defense doesn't wait for the offense to go, and the offense doesn't wait for anyone to hand them the ball. When the opportunity to attack is there, advantage is gained by doing so quickly.

What I love about this format is that it becomes COMPETITIVE. Players learn all sorts of things. They learn that, if the defense is snoozing, they can race to the corner for a try. They learn that if they get overzealous and take off without support, they can turn over the ball. The take chances when they have space, and yes, sometimes they panic. Most important of all, they learn to communicate with eachother, and they have a lot of fun.

How it might start (if RED starts on defense and BLUE on offense)

As soon as a try is scored, or some infraction occurs, BLUE goes on Defense, and RED on offense . The players who just finished politely exit the grid and return to their teams for whatever role they will take next.

And so on, and so on, and so on. If you want to work on contact skills, reduce the size of the grid and the number of participants. Want to work on moving the ball wide? Make a big wide grid. I like playing continuous 3 v 5 and continuous 5 v 8. You can alter the rules, the grid, and the number of players to focus on whatever you like. It's a great way to get a lot of people working at a high intensity, and lots of fun.

That's what its all about, right?

1 Comment:

OBG said...

I can't see the images? Is it me? Love the post and would like to see your visual suggestions. I agree with you on round-the-corner drills. Basically, people practice how to succeed in the drill, which isn't at all the same as succeeding in the game. Sure, it provides some good basics.

I use these but have done modifications, as you have. First, we we go 3-on-2, I start the third offensive player from some random point. That teaches the ball carrier to look around and it teaches support skills for the inserting player.

And I agree with you about handing the ball over. I'll either do it (as you say, mixing up the insertion point) or have them start with ball in hand.

Where are the pics?