A word of warning with these ramblings.
If you are a conservative rugby coach then I suggest you look away now, as for many of you this article may be too challenging to long held beliefs about catching a high ball.
This is not an instructional piece by any means. More a view on what I believe should be the benchmark standard for catching “Attitude”.
“What?!”, I hear you say, “is catching attitude?”
Take a look at this clip (25secs) of Willie Le Roux catching a high ball for the Sharks in Super Rugby:
Catching attitude is a measure of a players commitment to the ball (catch attempt). We can all tell a mile away the player that doesn’t really make the required effort to make a catch, or at least create a contest.
This highlight of Willie making a high ball catch highlights several things (yes, aside from the fact you may get hurt):
- An unwavering focus (on the ball) throughout the whole play for the ball, including his ground steps
- Controlled tempo into the vertical leap, creating a (high) dominant position in the clouds away from defenders arms
And here is the attitude part:
Willie put aside all self preservation when committing only to the ball. This was a catch he had to make, and he didn’t let his team down.
Granted, Willie does turn his body at the highest point. I feel this was to ensure a comfortable chest catch, rather than for protection as he was already ‘wide open’ to having his legs taken out.
You see, (the coaching of) self preservation is the enemy of catching a high ball in rugby.
Yet, you only have to trawl the internet, search on Youtube or have a chat at your local club to see that still most players are coached this way:
- Keep your eye on the ball
- As you jump turn your body to protect yourself from on coming traffic etc etc
The focus in rugby for far too long has been more about protecting yourself than catching the ball (contestable kicks), and I believe this must change. A player with great catching attitude (positive) is more likely to secure catches than the player with a ‘protect first’ attitude (negative).
Often these closed catching drills in practice are far removed from the chaotic & dynamic reality of what actually happens when a real ‘up and under’ is launched in a game.
If we, as coaches, remove much of the mechanical/technical aspects of catching a little and just let the players learn to adapt to catching in traffic, they WILL improve. They will also become more confident and skilful as a result.
Sure you can assist with key coaching points of tracking, leap and catch, but do it with a BALL FOCUS.
What I am saying here is try losing the protect yourself, technical aspect of coaching and bring out a committed attitude to making catches. Quite simply, the ball must be the primary focus, before self protection.
Coach, I implore you to bring this mindset into your coaching of the skill, and I assure you your players will benefit.
Still not convinced?
Have a look at some brilliant examples below of “ball focused” catching from the AFL. Many of these are contested catches (marks), and worth noting this is a ‘360 degree’ game :
By Stuart Lierich