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UK Coaching Team
Safety and Welfare Organising and Planning

Ideas to Help Coaches Plan for the Return to Play: Part 1

From his experience of implementing Covid-19 secure training sessions, here are rugby league coach Ian Stapleton’s top tips for coaches looking to return to coaching

Ian Stapleton has been coaching rugby league for over eight years. Based in Warrington, he coaches children and adults at Ryland Sharks, who are associated with the Warrington Wolves Foundation.

  1. Social distancing. If you’ve got access to a rugby or football pitch, mark out 10-metre squares for groups of up to six participants. It’s the perfect way to keep people apart. For other sports just scale down the size of each square and number of people within them. 
  2. Back to full contact? No. But you can still do ‘contact’-based skills with a few modifications. For example, you could use those swimming pool ‘noodles’ as extensions of arms and hands. It’s allowed our participants to play touch rugby without touching one another, whilst still enjoying the movement of finding open space. For tackle-based activities, get participants to tag a leg. Adapt the activity to keep as socially distanced as possible.
  3. Coach admin. Pieces of paper is a big no, no. Navigate the tricky world of GDPR by using an online consent form to get permission from your adult participants, parents, and guardians to use their contact details. Then use an online drive (like Google Drive) where you can upload all the documents you need to run your session. That way everyone can see what you have planned.
  4. Upload session plans. Give a flavour of your sessions by uploading them to the shared drive. Likewise, upload the track and trace information – let participants know in advance which group they’ll be in and who they’ll be training with. 
  5. Notifications. Participants (or their parents/guardians) should give you at least 24 hours’ notice on whether they intend to train that week. No notification, no training. As a coach it makes the paperwork easier and you’ll be able to sort out groups in advance.
  6. Upon arrival. Do a register of all your participants, then send them off to their respective ‘changing room’, zone or area. Use different colour cones on the floor to indicate to players where they should go.
  7. Equipment. Try and keep equipment to a minimum. Participants should ideally just bring themselves. They should turn up in their kit with a water bottle and hand sanitiser. No bags.
  8. Sanitise, sanitise, and sanitise again. Plan regular sanitisation intervals in your sessions.
  1. Online training. If training is cancelled or some of your participants are self-isolating or in quarantine at home, keep them engaged with little challenges like learning to juggle or give them some ball drills to practise. Keep everyone involved whether they’re at training or not. 
  2. Implement your CPD. If you’ve had some time to do some online coach learning through these lockdowns, now’s the time to put it into practice. 
  3. Go back to the basics. First session back, have a mess about and get to know each other again. Coaching is about communication and, after being away from each other for so long, it’s about getting our voices back. Use the old party games to stimulate engagement and shake off the rust.
  4. Fitness levels. Don’t go too harsh, there’s no point. Take it easy and have a laugh for the first month – and incorporate lots of water breaks. 
  5. If in doubt, give your governing body a shout. Once you’ve done your planning and risk assessments, double check you have everything in order with your governing body of sport. They might think of something you have missed. Better to be safe than sorry and there’s no harm in asking. 
  6. Be excited. Enjoy the human interaction and the social side of coaching. It’s been sorely missed. 

Related Resources

  • Ideas to Help Coaches Plan for the Return to Play: Part 2

  • Rusty Nails It! Some Magic Advice on Returning to Coaching

  • Kevin Sinfield on the Evolution of Fitness in Rugby League


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