How to lead a horse to water and make it drink

Here I am, back again from a forced break from writing and diving once again into a cynical yet appreciative look at the game we call our own. Just a short article this week as well, due to the more pressing dual issues of the rugby season fast approaching and our team’s lack of a subs bench and a coach.

It’s hard to be cynical though this week. I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I think I have found the Holy Grail of rugby training. The closely-guarded secret that eludes so many coaches and trainers the world over, it is that one single piece of knowledge that is hidden deceptively well yet right in front of your nose. Forest. Trees. You get the idea.

Anyway, before I answer your questions of “But Ben, why are you coaching training sessions if you’re only a second-year player?” I shall reveal to you this secret. I will break the code of coaches and give you this knowledge. As Prometheus did bring fire from the gods on Mt Olympus down to mortal man, I shall bequeath unto you this secret.

The secret to getting blokes to have interest in training sessions is……tackle bags and pads. Cue angels singing and glorious realisation dawning.

Some background to the secret may be needed.

With the start of the season coming closer and the official registration day having come and gone with no brave souls putting their hands up to coach, it fell on some of the players to get training sessions organised and to prepare the team for it’s first pre-season match in four weeks. With no takers from the side to organise a session, with my research done just in case it fell to me, I took upon the mantle of coach for a training session this week. Doubtless by the time this is published I’ll have also run another one as well.

So on Tuesday, with equipment and drills prepared and knowing I was going to have to try and find some way to motivate some of the less-fit forwards, I ran my training session. It was successful to say the least, apparently. The backs were moving positions around and trying to diversify their playing, and the forwards were coping with the lack of a hooker by sharing that duty amongst themselves too. Overall, I’m proud of the boys who turned up and gave the first session of the year a shot.

But what most surprised me is how a simple tackle bag can be used to motivate. After running two drills where some of the forwards were bent double or on their hands and knees heaving breaths in and out, they somehow never stopped coming back for more hits on the pads and bags. Every time they wanted to hit just as hard even though they were feeling the exhaustion.

I feel I have unlocked some game-changing secret. I know, though, that with great power comes great responsibility.

While there is a real desire to try and harden the front row to the point where they can commit to tackle after tackle, there is also a bit of schadenfreude (Google it, guys) in watching the team get worn down and still telling them to go harder. I’m not a bastard or anything, but I can just imagine Cottesloe players on the other end of those tackles.

As for pre-season in general, it’s a task trying to motivate everyone past the point of still feeling Christmas lunch and all the holiday beers and into thinking about the game that week or on how far through the line they can push. The cries of “But it’s only January!” blended into “But it’s only February!” and then into “But it’s too hot!”. Anyone would think we had a team of AFL players instead of some of the toughest nuts I’ve seen take to the field. However I think word may spread. If more training sessions involve proper contact we may have enough for two forward packs this year! Who would have thought enticing the boys with contact drills could motivate them so…..

At any rate, I don’t see myself putting my hand up for coach. Too much effort has gone into trying to win an outside centre spot. But if anyone wants to volunteer, be my guest! No salary for the position, but I understand it’s “all the beer you can drink”……

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