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I hear you. There are many more rugby ball manufactures than the two above mentioned.

Adidas, Summit, Canterbury, Rhino, Umbro just to name a few…

Whether online or whilst on coaching assignments I am often asked

“Hey Stu, which ball brand is best for kicking?”

This usually extends to:

  • Which ball is best for passing?
  • Is a Gilbert more rounded than Steeden or other brands?
  • Which lasts longer?
  • etc etc etc

I find this interesting on several levels and offer the following:

  • No best brand suited to rugby based on shape
  • Gilbert & Steeden are VERY SIMILAR (and both owned by the same company Gray Nicholls)
  • A ‘traditional’ rugby union shaped ball is folklore more than fact
  • Variable quality between models of all brands

I suggest this advice:

  • Most ball brands have several ‘models’ to choose from, the mid to upper price range offers best value for longevity
  • Look for a nice ‘weighty‘ ball, as the cheaper light ones will ‘blow out’ quicker particularly if the recipient of decent kicking volume
  • A good tradesman doesn’t blame his tools. Predominantly train with the ball used in competition, but for skill acq and developing adaptability – mix it up!!
  • Move on from this debate 😉

Watch the [Videos Below] where I share these thoughts:

My iphone went flat during the first video, so my thoughts are spread across two takes!

The beauty of ‘live’ posts and candid sharing haha

By Stuart Lierich

The question comes up often and exists in several forms.

A little something like this –

“Hey Stu, are there any secrets or gold nuggets that you could share from the pro teams? I mean, any secret drills or activities I should know about?”

Here is my response, and the answer to what makes the good teams much better than yours.

(Hint: you already have the ‘gold’)…

By Stuart Lierich

A short post to clear the air on a few kicking misconceptions.

This is an updated post, with a small video presentation added to further expand on the points I have listed

1. Smoother is a much better focus than Harder…

2. How a player grips a ball is less important than the eventual quality of contact…

3. The action is much more than a leg swing. Understanding “whole of body” movement will provide you a key to coach effective improvement…

4. Players with compact process kick better. Fluent and more efficient…

5. There is no excuse for you not to coach it in your program. It’s a core skill and closely aligned to your attack & defensive strategies…

Full Video Here (a facebook live (iphone) video recording):


By Stuart Lierich


“I am delighted that this article has been contributed by renowned Physical Performance Coach, Grant Jenkins from propelperform. Grant is a graduate of the famed Stellenbosch University in South Africa and has (among other sports) worked in both professional tennis and rugby. He has a wealth of knowledge and experience, and has been good enough to share some of his insights into the importance of taking charge of your own (coach) education”. Although directed at Rugby Coaches, this article is relevant for coaches of all sports, and at all levels of competition…

After reading this, I encourage you to explore Grant’s work (links above) and other valuable contributions to coach and player development.

So over to you Grant…

Last week I was interviewed for KickCoachingTV – a fantastic initiative that addresses all things coaching.

During the interview we had a brief discussion on the value of mentors before addressing other potential pitfalls that could trap coaches.

Since the clip went up I have been asked to expand my thoughts on this topic so thought I’d write them up.

To give yourself the best chance to succeed as a coach, having a mentor is a great place to start. However, there are two other valuable sources of information that you could be losing out on. Read further…

The Mentor

Without going into too much detail (as there are plenty of articles addressing this elsewhere), having someone to talk to that has made many of the mistakes you’re about to make is fantastic.

Probably the most important aspect is having someone who has been around the proverbial block a few times is that they can keep you focusing on the basics, the fundamentals.

They don’t’ get caught up in the hype, they’ve seen it all before.

Personally, back in the 90’s, as a young S&C coach, I could stand on a Swiss ball as long as anyone. In fact, I pictured my own facility as having nothing more than a few balls and plenty of space. Why wouldn’t I? It was the latest trend…

My mentor, Mark Steele, reminded me to keep focusing on improving my teaching of squats, cleans and bench press.

Now as I mature as a coach, I’ve noticed my programs change less, are more stable, and I swing less with the trends.

So, find a mentor that has seen it all.

The Peers

I am ashamed to admit that it took me a long time to understand how much I could learn from my peers; coaches who were at a similar stage of the their journey, and similar environment, to me.

My attention was so focused on what the ‘elite’ were doing that I forgot to look around me.

Fortunately, realising that while two hours of ice baths, massages and IV fluids might be ideal, the fact of the matter was my athletes had parents who needed to get them home so they could eat dinner and do their homework.

The interesting part about this group of coaches is how willing to share information everyone is. At every level, in almost very sport, I have been amazed at how my peer group has been at opening up.

So while it might be far more sexy catching up with the professional coach who leads his well-paid athletes, see how much you can learn from the amateur club coach who can only access half the field, with bad lighting.

I bet you’re going to be astounded.

The Mentees

There are two major benefits with having people to mentor.

The first benefit is that the up and coming coach is often going to expose you to information. Yip, that’s right, they’re going to educate you!

Remember when you read everything you could get your hands on? Watched every VHS tape (stop reading now if you don’t know what that is) that you or one of your buddies imported?

Well, that is them now: thirsty sponges trying to soak up every bit of information.

Now some of that information might not be new. Sure, it’ll probably be repackaged, but the fundamentals will be something similar to what you learnt about a few eons ago.

This is a good thing because I bet there are good aspects to your programs that you have forgotten to include lately, and these mentees will remind you.

The second major benefit is that mentees will question almost everything you do (don’t bother with them if they don’t).

While they won’t cause you to deviate from your ‘tried and tested’ programming, they might expose a few ruts you’ve fallen into lately.

A benefit for you and your athletes!

Just remember, the goal of having a mentee is not to clone you, but give them some tools that will make them more successful.

So there we have it, three levels of learning that shouldn’t cost more than a few cups of coffee but will be invaluable in professional development.

Below is the link to the full video recording on KickCoaching TV with Grant Jenkins, discussing “Coaching Pitfalls”…

By Stuart Lierich & Grant Jenkins

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)…

photo-12 *Note the instruction in this image. Who Says? This player may well be able to adapt and compensate other things to ensure good bat-to-ball contact…


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

We all know what an effective punt kick looks like, right?

Backward spin, end-over-end executed with a trajectory that obtains good flight speed and generally some distance. Well executed, a good punt will achieve a predictable flight path and reasonable roll-on if required. Of course a sound punt technique can easily be modified and form the base for other kick variations, such as the “Up & Under”.

So beyond how to hold the ball correctly, what should you know to improve your technique to achieve consistent outcomes in a game?

Join me in the video below as I discuss some of the keys to effective technique…..

By Stuart Lierich