By Kimball Kjar
In a recent article I discussed the success of the Waikato Chiefs and their exciting 2012 season.
One of the lynchpins for the Chiefs success has been the antics of rugby revelation Sonny Bill Williams.
By saying “antics” I say that with a serious amount of respect as his skills and abilities are something that most top-level rugby players cannot easily replicate.
His size, speed and of course his ability to off-load to a supporting running are all something rugby hasn’t combined in a top-level rugby player in decades, if ever.
The ‘antic’ that stands out the most, and that most teams game plan for when they play Sonny Bill, is his ability to make a deft back-handed pass in contact, thus springing his supporting team mate through space that might have seemed non-apparent.
This is a skill that I call the “SBW.”
As I’ve watched a number of Super Rugby matches this season, it’s become clear that players have realized the talent of Sonny Bill and have worked diligently to emulate his “SBW” pass because of the success it offers in keeping the ball alive and the defense on its heels.
For some coaches, the SBW is a skill most would say is left only those who are of the Sonny Bill Williams caliber. And as such those coaches confine a player’s skill development to only the basic skills they deem necessary to build a solid rugby player.
In some cases, especially with players who are just starting to learn the game of the core skills of rugby, I agree with this coaching tactic.
But with players who have a solid foundation of skills I believe there needs to be a safe place within a training environment, if not on their own, to develop and work on high-level skills like the SBW.
In the mid-twentieth century it was uncommon for basketball players to shoot a basketball while jumping. But the skill has become second nature to the game in its modern form.
Similarly, before the late 1970’s it was highly uncommon for American football teams to pass the ball more than they ran.
But Bill Walsh and others took an advanced progression of building the passing game and making the pass, in some cases, the strategy of first-choice for professional football teams.
In both cases the jump shot and the passing game are elite-level skills that young players of both sports now train from the early stages of their development.
In the game of rugby progressive skill development is vital for the sport to grow and thrive.
And players like Sonny Bill Williams who are pushing the boundaries of what you can and can’t do in the game of rugby are showing players of all levels what they should be training and developing.
The role a coach faces is to ensure that players feel confortable to explore skills that will allow their creative talents to be expressed.
With a game such as rugby that has creativity part and parcel to its core identity its imperative that coaches don’t let their methodologies and apprehension limit a player’s opportunity to try new things.
Should a coach let players do anything they want? Of course not, that’s why there are coaches.
But trainings should have periods before, during or after the session that allow players the chance to explore their talents, preferably under the trained eye of a coach.
Or at the very least a player should be able to work on and try new skills in touch rugby games or similar “low key” environments.
During trainings coaches would be wise to never stifle the efforts of players to explore new skills if the player is working within the confines of the team’s system at large.
The key however, is that a player must train a skill to a high degree before being able to sufficiently mastering it at a level where they can pull it off in a game successfully.
But as with any learning experience a person must be buoyed up with confidence and realistic feedback (not constructive criticism…there’s big difference) so as to fully realize maximum skill development.
The “SBW” is a rare skill that many of the modern professional players are developing expertly.
And in using the same principles of repetition, patience, realistic feedback, and hard work a player and a coach can help develop an atmosphere of learning, creativity and sound technical skill.
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The Barbarians are one of the top invitational rugby sides with a long history and classic rugby jersey.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Lions get ready for their matches with this green training jersey. It's what the players wear. Get in the Gear!
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The Lions are ready to get their Australia tour underway. They arrive in Perth on Monday.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.