Creating and Absorbing Pressure
A team’s aptitude for creating and sustaining pressure on the opposition often determines the result of the match. Limiting mistakes, controlling field position and ball possession, completing phases of play and concluding them in a dominant field location undoubtedly contribute to reaping winning returns.
Conversely, the ability to absorb pressure plays a crucial role. It’s no good cracking through the opposition if they simply crack you right back. The top teams can sop up seemingly relentless raids on their own line, tackle after tackle, phase after phase. Some coaches call it the ability to attack in defence. There’s no doubt it can play a significant role in dictating the outcomes of contests. So how do you coach it?
“It’s a matter of creating the consistency in creating and absorbing pressure’ says our defense coach. ‘You can’t have one without the other and be successful. Firstly, if you are consistently under pressure there’s a reason for it and that needs to be identified immediately – it might be because you’re turning the ball over or kicking poorly – but secondly, if you are under attack you need to be able to defend it and see the battle out”.
Quite often it’s during this pressure situation that the game’s result will become known. If the attacking team can turn pressure into points it gives them greater confidence of achieving a similar result the next time they venture ‘downtown’, however, if the defending side sustains the pressure continuously, it can break the back of the attacking team who seem to throw their hands in air and scream ‘how can we get through?’
The key Defence believes lies in the mindset of the defenders.
“It all depends on how you approach it mentally’. ‘I say to my players just say to yourself I have to make a tackle here, just one tackle. You never see in a number of phases one player makes all the tackles – it gets shared around. You only have to make one tackle, or sometimes two. So by cutting your processes down to achieve the result the entire team benefits.
Unyielding defence promotes mistakes from the opposition and our coach considers communication central to any defensive structure.
“The only time you stop communicating is when you are fatigued and you can’t talk. If you can’t talk you’re being lazy and then you’re not thinking correctly. I’m a firm believer in communicating through the entire line of defence and if you are, you’re stronger because of it”.
As a player Mike Ford’s kicking game was unparalleled. He controlled matches with long, pinpoint perfect torpedo punts. As a coach he understands the value a first-class kicker can bring to the team, especially in pressure circumstances. He stresses the importance of getting away a good kick and then making that first tackle as far away from the try line as possible.
“I can see what our mindset is like from watching our kick chase. If we’ve got a poor kick chase it’s because we’re really fatigued and struggling. Individual performance creates team performance and the kicker has the responsibility to make his kick as long as possible to help out the team. If he doesn’t then he’s letting us down. The kicker only has one job to do and he’s got to make sure he does it correctly. If he gets away a good kick it lifts the morale of the rest of the players”.
“That’s the thing that will ultimately make the difference. You can get a great kick away, but if you don’t then back that up with the right attitude in defence you’ll pay for it. Often in situations like this, the team will be forced to scramble; be desperate to make the tackles and get where they have to be. All that comes down to is attitude – you don’t have good desperation if you’ve got poor attitude. You won’t apply or absorb pressure if you’re attitude is poor. It’s as simple as that”.