Monday, July 27, 2015

Seven Successful Steps for Sevens

Well, another Midwest sevens series is about wrapped up and the guys from 1823 have taken the top see coming out of the region again. As the sun sets on sevens and people turn their attention to the upcoming 15s season, let's take a look back and see what lessons can be learned from this most recent season. Below are some of the aspects of a successful sevens team.

  1. Depth
    Whether it's 1823 or any other successful sevens squad, depth is important. At the very least, to deal with injuries and scheduling issues, it would be beneficial for teams to have a good amount of numbers to bolster a team's roster. The successful sevens team out of Columbus apparently has 20 players vying for spots on their A side. Having this number of players continually competing gives teams the ability to give different combinations legitimate tests on offense and defense, give players a wealth of experience and increases fierceness, tenacity and all-around intensity during training sessions. This increased pressure only boosts the development that occurs during those sessions.
  2. Systematic CreativityWhen operating at its best, a rugby team - whether it's sevens, tens or 15s - should run in a similar fashion to a jazz band. Rather than a quartet, the team would be like a seven-piece band. There should be a defined plan that everyone uses as a guide and fall back on while having the freedom for players the improvise to a certain point. Each player should be able to put his or her personal mark on the proceedings, as long as the deviation isn't destructive to the overall guiding plan. The key is that the deviations are disciplined and have a purpose, rather than being random deviations for the sake of a random deviation. Everyone has a role but, at the same time, every player has the freedom to improvise as needed. This requires players to have confidence in themselves as well as their  teammates so that they can support one another and the overall plan throughout competitions.
  3. The Basics
    Little things come together to make big things happen. Big plays emerge when little elements like smart running, passing and decision-making are mastered and continually present. Players can't be expected to snipe a pass through traffic or off-load in contact when passing both directions proves to be a struggle, for example. When players master the basics, a solid base is established that allows players to build upon; and as players build and expand upon their base of the basics, they and their team will flourish and reach their potential. Looking at any consistently successful sevens squad will prove this point positive.
  4. PhysicalityJust because sevens is a very speed-heavy game doesn't mean there is no place for physicality, tackling and crashing. Regardless of the format, the main objective of the sport is to go forward and score. Considering that fact, it stands to reason that players will have to encounter a defender or two. In fact, most of the top-tier teams on the international scene are praised for their use of physicality during play. Kenya, South Africa, New Zealand and Fiji, among others, all have a physical aspect to how they play and can control the breakdown so well they can control the flow of the match itself. Physicality has its place in sevens in that it can control the pace and placement of a defense as the match progresses, and ti can allow the offense to reset if the offensive intentions of a team are not working.
  5. FlowThe one thing that is the most difficult to overcome in a rugby match is momentum. A team on the front foot is difficult to stop. As success is continually achieved, confidence grows and players fight to keep the good results coming. This generally leads to more success, and the cycle continues. Teams should establish a culture and strategy that allows for the easy achievement of this flow throughout the match. Strategy and execution will take care of themselves during the run of practice sessions leading up to matches. A culture of complementing players, or at least providing constructive criticism, can go a long way towards getting the flow...flowing. Good vibes will keep players going forward and trying to achieve the team's goals with gusto. From there, flow should follow.
  6. VarietyVariety is the spice of life, and it is essential to the establishment of a successful sevens program. All too often players are pigeon-holed and strategies are based upon what coaches and captains see in the players in front of them as they are, ignoring what they could be or could do. In an open, creative sport like rugby, doing this cuts down the developmental possibilities to a great degree. Without the freedom to experiment, no true, meaningful advancements can be made. With a limiting strategy, players become well versed in one brand and style of play but when competition requires that they step out of their established skill set they are incapable of rising to the occasion; and when players cannot rise to the occasion they cannot overcome high-level competition. Allow players to explore their skill set and expand their abilities and they will flourish. Likewise, so will the team. Who knows, maybe players will begin to surprise people? Think of it this way. What's more surprising than a shifty guy making a good step during a match? A big, powerful one making an equally good step, just with a few more pounds and power behind it.
  7. FunIt it's not fun it's not worth it. No player is going to put in the work necessary to make the previous steps a reality if there is no enjoyment to be had in the process. Enjoyment drives effort. Keep the fun and you'll keep the players. Keep the players and you'll keep moving forward.

No comments:

Post a Comment