Well, have you ever wanted to know the answer to this question? It’s common for me to be asked this at most Coach Education events that I deliver, and personally I love being asked this.
One reason is that it shows a depth of thinking from the coach that posed the query, and it gives me an opportunity to explain a not so simple concept.
Let us both establish the known fact, that in rugby, we have many kick (type) choices at our disposal and variations thereof. Yes, “captain obvious” here, but start looking at this a little deeper and we can start to see the answer appearing…
Here it is..
“Best practice coaching in my world of kicking, is NOT to be fixated on how a player holds the ball, BUT rather how they are able to manipulate the ball into the correct position on the foot”…
I know you follow, but I will say it again because this underpins any corrective coaching you may provide your players…..
“The quality of contact between Ball & Foot is more important than how a player holds the ball”. The area to observe closely is the Transition phase of Ball Set/Release, as this contributes to the quality of contact with the boot.
We now have allowances for individual style and mechanics, provided kickers are effectively executing their options. If a player is consistently making correct decisions and has sound execution, we have no right as coaches to change the way they hold the ball. Period.
I feel awkward when I think back to days gone by, ( and yes I admit to this!), when coaches were very fixed about the grip type for each kick and spent so long instructing players. Just have a look at most of the ‘standard‘ online resources (if you can find it) on the subject. Wrong. Flexibility in our coaching “bandwidth’ is critical.
I played, among many sports, cricket as a junior. Many days were spent in backyard test matches (another blog there for sure, about play practice!) with a certain Dad that was keen on me holding the bat a particular way. You may even remember the drill? Stand in front of the bat, handle facing you, bend over and pick up etc etc..
I’m getting off topic, but I know for certain that Cricket Australia instruct coaches to allow for a comfortable batting grip, as long as it falls inside a framework that compliments the technical requirements. And so my opinion with the Kicking Grip in Rugby (and Australian Football for that matter)…
Ok, here’s the disclaimer on the subject, I do have a set of preferred grip styles for the various rugby kicks that allow for optimal delivery to the foot, but by no means a “one-size-fits-all”. Imagine your family doctor, who has a range of remedies to prescribe all of your ailments if necessary. So your role as a skills coach is similar. We should only prescribe the suggested remedy if we feel it will treat the source of the “ailment”…
Yes, the quality of ball-to-foot contact is central to my corrective coaching, as many a story is told by close observation of this. We should tread on this area with soft shoes and a magnifying glass, as it’s not always the grip that affects contact, or other mechanical factors in a technique. BUT, if I feel a player’s technique would improve with some attention to their Grip, I will work with that player to achieve an outcome.
If you do travel the path, after your Sherlock Holmes effort of deduction, of manipulating the grip style for a player, ensure they have “buy-in” to the process! They must invest the will to change, and it be based on buying in to your reasons to do so. We are talking about skill acquisition here, a coaching science. My advice here is to be well aware of your duty of care and best practice methods of Instruction & Feedback in introducing a new concept or movement sequence.
Click on the video below to take a look at my overview of Kicking Grips:
Click the Video to view some further though on this subject:
By Stuart Lierich