What coaches need to know about coaching women’s rugby
You might think that coaching rugby is always the same; however, coaches stepping up to international level know it is very different to coaching club rugby, while there are also great differences depending on who is in your squad. There are more than 200 clubs nationwide with an active girls section, many of them thriving. Those that are not doing so well can generally pinpoint that the issues are not with the attitude or motivation of the female squad or with their ability, but with the way in which they are being coached.
You would probably expect a group of young men to behave differently to a group of young women and it follows that you might need to approach them differently when coaching. With boys, there will often be a few egos, expecting to be picked and believing they are the stars of the game. In general, girls are far better at being team players and will not play selfishly to the detriment of the team.
With girls, it is not only about what you say but also how you say it. Rugby is still seen as a man’s game; therefore, the girls in your squad might well have endured some comments on their decision to play. Try not to reinforce this theory and avoid using phrases such as ‘the man outside you’, replacing ‘man’ with ‘player’ or some other gender-unspecific word.
Girls generally like to discuss things and ask questions; therefore, if you are a coach who likes to ‘transmit’ only, you will need to consider modifying your communications and build this into your rugby drill. As girls often pick things up faster than boys, always have a few more drills ready in case the girls get through the session quickly. There are lots of great drills available online from resources such as https://www.sportplan.net/drills/Rugby/.
The Women in Sport factsheet contains more information on the differences between coaching male and female athletes.
By the time players reach their early teens, there is likely to be a noticeable difference in physical strength, meaning that drills that rely on muscle alone might not be appropriate; however, with most girls having finished growing by this age, a larger age range can play together.
Interest in the game will undoubtedly increase as more female role models emerge.