The BIG question: Hey Coach, am I starting?
I hear this question every year. I hear it from the veterans and I hear it from the rookies, I even hear it from
some of the best players in the State. All athletes worry about whether or not they will start, whether or not they will get playing time. They put hundreds of hours and gallons of sweat into practice and preparation and they want to get on that pitch, they want to have tangible proof that their efforts are valued by the team and by the coaches. Parents ask them, friends ask them, everyone wants to know if they will start. Aside from “did you score”, “did you start” is probably the most common question players hear from friends and family about playing rugby. Under this
pressure, it is no mystery that players want to know if they will start.
The answer to the BIG question is: It’s not up to me to decide. What? Are you kidding? “but you’re the
coach” they say when I tell them it’s not up to me. But it’s true; I am not the one who decides who starts. Each player decides whether or not they will start and whether or not they will get playing time. I simply observe the players and make the appropriate selections based upon what I see. What I do, as head coach, is set the criteria for starting and give the players the opportunity to meet those criteria. I watch and evaluate each player to see if they are meeting the criteria, I help them improve and I let them know how they are progressing. Below are the criteria that I use:
Safety: The number one consideration for choosing players is safety. Players must be both mentally and physically prepared to play in order to keep themselves and others safe. Most players are safe to play after about a month or so of practice. They must learn how to safely engage in contact and learn the basic laws of the game.
Commitment: The next consideration for choosing starters is whether or not a player is committed to
the team. This commitment is measured in many ways including:
Attendance at Practice - Simple, be there and be on time. If you can’t be there then let your team mates know ahead of time by posting on the teams FB page. You are each accountable to one another. If you are missing practice without a reasonable explanation, your team mates will know, and you will have to answer to them. Rugby is a tough physical game that requires team mates to trust and believe in each other, you build that trust at practice.
Participation in Fundraisers – There is no team without the money to pay the expenses. We do not ask parents to carry the full burden, instead we ask players to help their parents by doing fundraisers. The dues your parents pay cover about half of the actual costs. Each player must do their part raising the rest of the money needed to keep the team going. If you are skipping fundraisers to do other things then you are telling us that Storm Rugby is not your priority.
Helping – Doing the things that need to get done in order to make the team work. Picking up equipment
after practice, helping line the fields, giving players a ride, helping a team mate with schoolwork are some examples of helping out. There seem to be a million things that need to get done in order to make the team run, players who pitch in and help without being asked are earning the right to be a bigger part of the team they are building. You reap what you sow on Storm Rugby.
Meeting your parents’ expectations for grades and conduct – I can not and will not reward players
that are not adhering to their parents’ expectations. A child’s job is to be a student and to obey their parents. If your parents are not happy with you, then I am not happy with you. Appreciate the sacrifices your parents make for you, help them without being asked and help your siblings without being asked. Take your job as a student and daughter seriously. Plan ahead and keep your parents informed of everything in your schedule so that they are not surprised at the last minute. Keep things right at home and your parents will give you the opportunity to play for the best rugby team in the country.
Fitness: Fitness is both physical and mental. Rugby is a very challenging sport that requires players to be
100% ready when they step on the pitch. Players who are not ready can be a danger to themselves and to the
other players. You must be fit to play Storm Rugby.
Physical Fitness – You must be physically fit to play rugby. This does not mean that you have to be
exceptionally fast or that you have to meet a certain weight, it means that your body has to be strong enough
to withstand the physical requirements of the game and the position that you play. We build this fitness at practice
and you should be building it in your free time as well. Strengthening your ligaments and tendons is the number 1
way to prevent injury and stay in the game. The more you build your fitness, the better you will be able to play at a
high level for a whole game.
Mental Fitness – Mental fitness means that you are emotionally ready to play. You are focused on the
game and not distracted by your life outside of rugby. An unfocused player makes mistakes that can result in injury to themselves or others. When you come to practice or a game, it’s time to shut out the rest of the world and be focused on playing rugby. NO DRAMA! If you are having trouble staying focused because something is bothering you then talk to your parents or another relative, work to find solutions. If I can help, let me know.
Safety – Fitness is an important element to winning games but more importantly, fitness is what keeps
you and your team mates safe both on and off the field. Being fit will make you happier and more productive in
all aspects of your life. I can not put you in the game if you are not safe and ready to play.
Skills and Experience: Lastly- skill and experience, we will always have a broad range of skill and
experience on our team. Every year, about 50% of our team comes to us with absolutely no knowledge of the game of rugby. It is the entire team’s responsibility to help the new players gain the confidence and skills needed to improve.
Skill – Some players are simply better at the mechanics of playing than others, that’s called skill. You can improve your skills through practice and repetition and also through studying the game. Some positions require a great deal of skill and others a lesser amount. I will do my best to put you in a position that matches your skills and abilities. If you feel that you are over or under-challenged, just let me know and we will adjust.
Knowledge – A good understanding of the laws of the game means you will make fewer mistakes that result in penalties and that you will be quicker to take advantage of the other team’s mistakes. Study the game and the laws.You can watch complete games on youtube any time. Take advantage of this resource and learn to be a better player to increase your chances of playing. Study the laws of the game at www.IRB.com
Experience – Experience makes a huge difference for most players. As a coach it always amazes me to
see the difference in a player’s confidence after their first year. The timidity is gone and they become much more
willing to run hard with the ball, tackle and ruck. Experienced players will always have an advantage, but I do not make selections based upon experience. Players do not start simply because they have been on the team longer than someone else. Each player must earn their position every year, every month and every week.
Are you starting? It’s up to you!