Rugby union has traditionally been a late development sport, primarily due to physicality being a key determinate of ability. HOWEVER, a lot of rugby is played to a high expected level at a young age, we have talent pathways from a very young age, we have scholarships at 11, 13 and 16 years of age, in essence the early developer has a head start on the late developer, in opportunities and selection.
This early development does not always transfer itself to future elite performance at senior level. Yet, we have continued to harvest and cater for the early developer in how we hold competitions, how we select our age grade teams and how we ultimately coach them.
It is a problem that our A teams are full of early developers who will drop out of the sport when they do not reach the level they feel they should or should have been pushed towards. We also have a B and C team full of late developers who typically drop out of the sport due to the lack of opportunities they receive and ultimately the lack of progression.
Less than 2% of the rugby playing population will play elite level rugby, so why do we aspire to do so? Fundamentally the fun in the game is driven out by coaches who apply professional demands on an amateur or developing player pool.
So what is our real objective. A successful club rugby programme should not be measured on how many cups are won at the age grade but how many players transition through the Age Grades to Play Adult rugby.
Clubs should focus finding ways to make the senior game as much fun as the youth version, where values such as those in TREDS (Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline, Sportsmanship) are driven home. Coaches need to be more creative in how they devise coaching sessions that give players of ALL ability the opportunity to develop. It is the LATE developer who will be the player in the 1st XV as an adult not the early developer who can never reach the heights as an adult that they had as a 13 year old.
Rugby Coaching Drills has a huge amount of content for creating a pathway for young players to develop at their own pace, for you as the coach to bring on the LATE developers into a senior playing framework that is considerate to the needs of the player and the club.