Acquiring the Skills of Rugby League - The major skills of rugby league are considered to be passing, tackling, handling, play the ball, evasion and kicking. Players would be considered highly skilled when they could bring about a predetermined football response with maximum certainty and a minimum expenditure of energy. Elite players display an appearance of efficiency and smoothness of movement and are able to anticipate events and cope with unpredictable circumstance without adversely affecting their level of performance.
Learning is a continual process and therefore cannot be broken down into distinct or separate stages. However, irrespective of the age of the learner there are gradual changes that occur as the player develops an ability to reproduce a skill successfully.
The product of the learning process is when a player can produce the skill automatically. For example top players seem to be able to pay more attention to the development of the pattern of play around them than players with less skill.
These players have refined the skills to a stage where they can be executed without conscious awareness of the necessary movements. That is, the skills are automatic, therefore, when a champion gains possession of the ball he is not concerned with HOW he is going to kick it, but is more concerned with WHERE to kick the ball for the best advantage of the team.
Throughout this learning process the changes that occur include a reduction in errors, improvement in accuracy, greater consistency of performance and a decrease in the feel and level of effort.
The psychology of motor skill learning suggests that the condition under which the skills of rugby league are presented to the individual player are very critical in the learning process. Although it is often said that “practice makes perfect”, it should be recognised that players may not learn just because they participate.
It is important to practice and ensure that the correct technique is being employed, particularly at the junior level. The type and method of practice must be favourable in order that the player reaches the highest level of performance.
As coach you can vary the number, duration and intensity of practice periods. To guide the coach in his decision to select the most appropriate practice schedule he should consider the age and physical maturity and motivational level of the individual players along with the physical demands of the skill in terms of fatigue .
The more tired players become during the practice session, the less likely they are to retain their previous interest and skill level. In view of these factors, a distributed practice schedule provides a more efficient coaching system.
For example, the use of a 5 or 10 minute tackling segment in a number of practice sessions is more likely to make greater impact on the players in terms of learning and retention than a single half hour tackling segment once a month.
In general, football skills should be taught by the whole (as distinct from the part) method. For example, in learning to kick, the total action should be attempted by the player.
Coaches of many sports have traditionally seen practice solely in terms of physically performing the skills of the game. However, mental practice, is an important and integral component of the total learning process.
“Mental Practice” is that attempt by the player to understand the demands of the skill and to “think” the actions the movement so as to rehearse the correct movements and develop the skill.
The coach should assist the player by watching for mistakes in the actual performance and inform of errors. The player then mentally attends to that aspect of the skill before repeating the actions. For example after a practice tackle the player should be encouraged to use the period before the next tackle as a time during which the errors are recognised and the correct procedure mentally rehearsed.
Of great importance to the player/learner is feedback, which provides information about performance. While feedback may be a natural consequence of the skill itself, such as placing the ball over the line or tackling a player in possession a metre from the try line, extraneous acknowledgement and recognition is invaluable.