Most articles about sports, tips on becoming a better player, etc. focus on how to tackle or run lines, or out-manoeuvre the opposition. I thought it would be nice to have a look at more fundamental things that help me learn new thing in sports, before discussing the technique and speed tips. This is by no means the be-all and end-all, everyone has a different approach, but it’s just something I found useful throughout my not-so-long tag rugby career.
Despite having less experience in the tactical intricacies of tag rugby (or any form of rugby), I always try to prepare myself before each game; I am not talking about extensive stretching or running laps around the pitch, but rather, the technical aspect of my pre-game routine.
It starts at around 10.00 in the morning on the game day, after the daily update meeting at work. Like most offices, ours has one of those rooms with few sofas, a mini-fridge and those shapeless bean bags that you can sink into. I grab my moleskin notepad and a scalding hot coffee, and head to that room, hoping that everyone else is too busy having meetings at this time in the morning. Once I settle in, I start writing things down things I want to pay attention to in both defence and attack. The list usually includes moments like when to call for a kick or a switch or to remember to direct the marker when the ball has been recycled. So, it usually looks something like this:
Once the list is complete, I try to visualise each point several times, to get the picture in my head, and hopefully, in a game situation, things will work out as planned. Of course, to make these things work, you need a bit of field vision and speed, but this can help mentally put yourself in a game scenario. Where do you need to be when the opposition kicks their restart? How do I make sure the speedsters don’t outrun me? Just a bit of visual preparation goes a long way.
Moving onto the technical aspect of the game. One of my defining traits as a player is speed, and I have been lucky enough to score a few times, simply because the defenders were caught on their heels and couldn’t get there fast enough.
Once I realised that speed was pretty much the only thing I brought to the pitch in the early days, I had few conversations with sprinters at my local athletics club and got some pointers. Turns out, you can have twigs for legs like I do, and be fast, without having humongous leg muscles. Here are some tips on improving your speed:
- Minimise ground contact time – don’t land your entire foot on each step, it saves quite a lot of time during a pitch-length sprint if you just run on the balls of your feet. You also lose a lot less energy on the impact, which means you can remain light-footed and perform sidesteps if required.
- Push the ground away – instead of trying to pull your weight forward, push the ground away with your feet.
- Positioning – start with your torso low, push off, and straighten up to let the body mechanics take you the rest of the way.
- Control your breathing – breath in every other step to get your body used to certain amounts of oxygen when running.
Just a quick point about defence: in one-on-one situations, the defender should be on their toes, light-footed and be able to turn either way. Spread your arms wide, occupy as much space as possible, it is much more difficult for an attacker to get around you plus the width of your arm span, rather than when you are lunging for their tag with both hands.
I hope this helps you improve your game, and if you have any questions, give me a shout whenever you see me, I’m always happy to help out as well as learn anything from you. For now, have a good game!