Rugby coaching via remote device

Rugby coaching via remote device
TREVISO, ITALY - JULY 30: Alex Dombrandt has a GPS transmitter placed into this shirt by Warrick Harrington, the England sports scientist during the England training session on July 30, 2019 in Treviso, Italy. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Rugby coaching via remote device has become the new norm, as Coronavirus limits inter-personal contact with sportspeople. That ability to speak directly to your athletes has led to some new and interesting adaptions, from teams around the globe.

Coaching now with the introduction of remote devices and online contact is growing at an exponential rate. All because of the lack of the all-important tutorial/student touchpoint.  A huge change to a traditional one-on-one contact that since a game’s inception, has been almost always face-to-face.

Rugby coaching via remote device
Assistant Coach Jason Ryan and captain Scott Barrett (L-R) look on during the Crusaders Super Rugby training session at Rugby Park on March 09, 2020 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

How coaches and players have to react now will be a barometer of how successfully that sport will survive. Not just rugby union though, as every sporting code has to learn to adapt new technology to bridge the gap of ‘social distancing’.

While some will be temporary fixes during these unprecedented times, others will become more permanent. They may find a place in permanent use. Some may, unfortunately, interrupt the close bonds of the coach/player relationship yet, most will believe that both individual and team sports must always have a personal nature to it.

Rugby coaching via remote device

Many of the top coaches already incorporate technology. That has made a sure but steady incorporation into sport, since the 1970s. From the stopwatch to measuring speed, but today it how that data is used which is the big jump in remote device use.

Today, the pedometer and GPS tracking have more accurately replaced a stopwatch. Measuring how far/fast a player travels, is now broken down into recorded data that is interpreted in many different ways. From sprint sessions to long-distance recording over an 80-minute game. That is broken down by tools, computer programs and more recently, apps.

The GPS system tags are prepared during the England training session on July 30, 2019 in Treviso, Italy. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Collecting and transferring that data was once at the sole use of training and conditioning coaches, yet more so today, the athlete gets to read those measures. And that can be done remotely.

The player could be at a training ground or at a club ground, and that collected data is stored on the Cloud. Resent to an App via the coaching staff to be interpreted, and then shared to all recipients by remote device.

Instant, retrievable in an office or on the team bus, the technology is ever-increasing its benefits to team and individual. So how would a rugby coach be able to use such data in a Covid-19 environment?

Easily, as details/evidence are readily available for that individual. And if the athlete continues with their training while in self-isolation, gathering that data can be done via a Bluetooth or Wireless connection. It applies to rugby, both XVs, and 7s, as well as other team sports like League, Football, Cricket, and Basketball.

Coaching tools in the 21st-century aid Rugby

The use of remote workstations is more commonplace. So while the Coronavirus has placed huge partitions in the face of the traditional coaching function, coaching tools in the 21st-century will aid rugby. They will provide a good platform, that underlines what the one-on-one relationship had already established. That is the key.

Hard to create from scratch, so for any successful rugby coach today, they must have created a strong base to work from. Both hands-on, and technically suitable. A smart device can be the most useful tool today. Although different for each group; so the England Rugby team has more needs than a club rugby side yet, with this isolation period, both Eddie Jones and a typical club coach will have the same goals.

To retain that all important connection with players.

For Super Rugby, which has been postponed until further notice, each coach would have incorporated their systems and goals into a program where ‘coaching via remote device’ becomes the only option. Head coach Scott Robertson, a three-time championship-winning coach with the Crusaders has been planning with his staff on how to instruct players via remote device. “I’ve had 10 days of preparation beforehand. Obviously, when we came back from Brisbane, we went straight into Lockdown.

“It’s an interesting time. My mindset as a coach is to use all the things you had with the player’s personally, all the preparation, and [now] the mindset to get through this as positively as we possibly can”. His charisma and famous interpersonal skills have held him well during the regulation season yet, now, adapting to using new tools will test even his pedigree.

Smart device apps will be a Rugby coaches ‘best friend’

Whats App, Zoom and other group smart phone/device apps are being downloaded by everyone involved. From the players to all management and trainers. It will take a group effort, to be successful during the isolation period.

Robertson explained when interviewed by Sky Sport News, his group was fully informed on the pandemic (first and foremost). “All the boys are set up. They can do the gym at home, and probably the big thing is that we eat well.”

So as well as technical data, food and nutrition guidelines can be uploaded. Players will know that their physical conditioning is important – and can be measured remotely too. Weight, heart rate and measures of how far players have pushed themselves, will all be combined. Coaching remotely is as much on trust, then it is based on evidence.

Robertson’s message is clear. “Keep focused, and be ready to play rugby soon. At some stage there’ll have to record their numbers and times. It will be a gauge. They know what they need to do, what level they need to be at. That mindfulness and well being is really critical for us. We stay connected with short little videos of training.”

Although, the laconic character did make a joke that players like him, could work on puzzles and even watch a film. “I watched Free Willy. What a film, I got emotional,” and that is his engaging personality. So while removed from his players, many would expect his message to include the same balance of staying focused on training, as it would be tinged with positivity and humour.

Rugby coaching is about knowing the mood of the players. Even while coaching via remote device might have its benefits more so now, the increase is the positive balance between the human touch and technology.

 

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