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Positional rotation at U9 level...

Positional rotation at U9 level...

I originally posted this as answer to a question about squad rotation, but thought I might get a better response if I posted it as a question in its own right...

I have an 8 year old at the age level you are talking about - he isn't the best player at the club by any means, but has his good moments. He loves watching the game, he has a good understanding of the way it is played (to the extent that he has often shouted at the telly over recent weeks at some of our illustrious stars when they're out of position) and he has good handling skills - to be honest he's just not brave enough in the tackle yet, but I know it'll come so I'm not making a big thing of it. However, he and a couple of others are constantly stuck on the wing, and are getting fed up with the fact that they don't get the opportunity to get involved much. The coaches seem to have their "big names" and as you say seem more interested in the short term aims of winning each game rather than trying to keep the lads interested and challenged each week. I know my son's aware that I think they should move them all around, although I have made a point of not criticising the coaches at all - I think he heard me talking about it to someone else. The coaches have talked about moving players to different positions, but haven't done it, and aren't really receptive when they are asked about it. There are two coaches, and the one that seems to have the "casting vote" is pretty autocratic and doesn't seem to accept criticism or suggestions. My son has mentioned about moving to another club, where he may or may not get more of a chance to shine, but I am not sure this is the right move as it may teach him to give up rather than sticking with something. Any thoughts please?

Hi Phil, This is a key stage in your son's rugby experience going from tag to contact. As a coach at Reading RFC I have addressed this problem by ensuring all players are rotated and have sampled a minimum of four positions before asking them to name their favourite position. I then reviewed their choice against two markers, namely the RFU Proficiency Awards scheme (Core skills matrix) and a Personal development Plan (PDP) whereby each player has a record for each of their strenghts and weaknesses (we all have some!) and then deciding what their best immediate position might be, as remember this year's tighthead may be next year's awesome centre as boys grow and change shape and body mass.

The main point to avoid is pigeon-holing players on size and/or attitude and then not reviewing things on an on-going basis. I'd stick with the current club in the hope they "see the light" and rotate players as there will be some surprises (usually to the good) and very often fringe players are thus reborn when they realise they have found a position they have possibly never tried before and now really enjoy. The idea of getting the PDP and Core Skills matrix is all the boys (and girls) get and understanding of the game as a whole and it becomes pretty much like a swimming badge (i.e. I have reached U9s level of evasion, handling skills, tackling skills etc ...) and the more they understand the requirements of each position the more they can develop as players and this benefits the team as a whole.

If the current coaches aren't willing to experiment with rotation then I'd be inclined to seek a broader thinking club where your son would learn more inclusively about the game of rugby. Pigeon-holing players at these ages stiffles creativity and self expression and experimentation all of which form the key attributes that make great players of the future.

With regard to the A,B,C team rotation I support this entirely and the way we have balanced it is to understand that different players develop at different skills at different paces and the best way is to have a "current main team" and a development team(s) and players get rotated freely between these teams on an ongoing basis according to their development rate (Core skills and PDPs). One of the main methods of retaining the consistently better players is to make them mentors in their respective core skills that they excell at and they teach and nurture the others. This builds leadership skills and gives everyone a sense of involvement. Good luck in convincing your coaches of the benefits as they far outweigh the negatives! Let me know how you get on ... Dave

Thanks for such a detailed reply Dave, I appreciate the effort you've put into it. As you suggest, we'll stick with the current club and see how things go.

I'm very interested in the Core Skills matrix and the PDP you've talked about - I'm going to have a look into that (RFU website I assume?) and make a few gentle suggestions (tactfully of course - what else would you expect from a "sensitive" ex-lock)...

Cheers again for your time mate... Phil.

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