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Jay Connolly
Children Developing Mindsets

Five Skills Children Can Learn From Rugby

Key skills that children can gain from playing rugby that will help them on and off the field of play

With mixed messages being broadcast every day by various news outlets, it can be difficult to know the truth behind what contributes to childhood obesity. In order to avoid it, however, one thing’s for sure - encouraging exercise is a must.

Getting children to take part in a sport they love will not only keep them active and healthy, but also give them an opportunity to develop the key skills they’ll need throughout their lives.

As a rugby coach, your responsibility is to the children you’re training, from getting them involved in the game, to ensuring they enjoy the time they spend training.

So let's look at five key skills children can learn from this versatile and competitive sport.

1. How to listen to instructions

As they grow up, children will be required to listen to, and action, instructions in a variety of circumstances. From following safety advice to taking feedback from their boss, it’s important that all children learn how to listen to and follow instructions in order to equip them for later life.

As a coach, it can be difficult to be authoritative without being intimidating, but by ensuring the children you’re training learn how to follow precise instructions, you’ll be preparing them for more difficult scenarios further down the line.

  • Coaching tip: ​Shouting isn’t always the best way to get children to listen. Listen to them and work together to achieve the best results.

2. How to deal with disappointment

As with any sport, rugby inevitably brings its fair share of disappointments - and this can include anything from not being picked for a certain game to missing a try.

It’s important that children are taught real life lessons that will help them to prepare for the ‘real world’, and this includes being able to deal with situations that don’t go their way.

Rather than mulling over the injustice of a loss or the frustration of a poor training session, try and find a lesson that your children can learn from each particular disappointment.

This will help them to develop a more positive attitude, which will be invaluable in later life.

  • Coaching tip: Don’t make a big deal of losses. Encourage children to look for ways that they can individually improve before the next game, rather than placing too much emphasis on the outcome of a game.

3. How to play as part of a team

The ability to be a team player is something that’s required of us time and time again in life, and the sooner youngsters can learn the importance of working together, the better.

From not hogging the ball, to sacrificing their own moment in the spotlight in favour of the team, rugby can teach children how to cooperate with others, instead of always putting themselves first.

  • Coaching tip: Try mixing up players into different groups so that they have an opportunity to play with different people. This will teach them to work with children of all abilities and backgrounds, rather than only their close friends.

4. How to be more confident

The euphoria that comes with leading your team to victory can’t be matched and is a great way to instill confidence in young players.

When it comes to handing out praise or awarding man of the match, avoid choosing the same players every time.

Think about who’s contributed to the game in a small yet significant way. This will help your players to learn that you don’t have to score the most tries or be in the spotlight to serve as an integral part of a team.

  • Coaching tip: Encourage confidence by listening to players’ suggestions and giving them the freedom to experiment.

5. How to master self-discipline

Self-discipline goes hand-in-hand with any sport where players are required to listen to an authority figure.

This can involve anything from respecting a coach’s decision even if the player disagrees (e.g. when adhering to strict winter training schedules) to being benched during an important game.

Whether your team trains once or three times a week, commitment is key to becoming a great player.

No matter their age, make sure your youngsters understand the importance of regular training and appreciate how these sessions will help to improve their strength, endurance and overall performance.

  • Coaching tip: Help your players develop by making sure they understand their role and responsibility within the team. Encouraging self-discipline will help them become both greater players and more well-rounded people overall.

Related Resources

  • What Does Great Coaching Look Like: Rugby League

  • Coaching Advice for Young People by Young People

  • Developing Mental Toughness in Practice


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Jay Connolly