When coaching children the lineout in rugby, I would recommend you consider the following.
What is the ultimate aim?
Many coaches will immediately say to win every lineout in every match; but that is where I would differ.
I would say it is to enable the players to develop and understanding, so they have the ability to make choices when under pressure, ultimately to prepare them for the 15 a side game.
Considering what I have said above, you have to decide where to start.
In England that would be at Under 11s. This is when there are 4 players in the lineout; the distance of the throw is only 10 metres maximum so not too difficult to throw.
1. Identify hookers, spend extra time working with them, 1 hour extra a week now, will save hours on the training field in the future, in the modern game the lineout is the preferred attacking platform, so the 1st stage, that is the throw must work.
2. Who to jump, well I believe everyone should, so a fun warm up involving squats, springs, jumps, SAQ work and ball co-ordination is essential. There will be natural athletes in your side, but don’t just look after them. This should be developed into contest with each other. The lineout is not about who jumps highest, it is about hunger, desire and want. Otherwise we would only have giants in lineouts. Please remember you can’t jump with your arms in the air. Many coaches get all players to put arms up as ball is being thrown, basic plyometris tells us that we need our arms to maximise our jump.
3. Think up and agree a basic call system that can evolve with the players, the simpler the better, trigger numbers can be confusing as younger players may not concentrate. My own preference is body contact/movement calls, from experience involving players in making these calls is a fun session in itself and it ensures they remember them.
First Call – where the ball is going – I would use body movement calls, opponents listen for calls, they don’t watch, so not likely to be broken.
Second Call – that hooker is ready to throw – this should be verbal for two reasons, it lets your team mates know the hooker is ready & it will confuse your opponents as they will think this is the call.
Third call – is the movement of the jumper to let the hooker know he is about to jump. Many people think the hooker throws and the jumper jumps at the ball, when in fact the hooker throws the ball to a space and the jumper jumps to that space, this is the principle of supported lineouts, the sooner this principle is coached with children the better their understanding will be.
4. Where to throw.
Front Ball – The easiest throw – so start there, work on getting that correct – once correct work on what to do next. Ball to backs, maul & box kick. Immediately the basic front throw has three options, choices and decisions to make.
Back Ball – Not as easy, but if you have worked with your hooker & jumpers the one that will pay the most dividends, once correct work on what to do next – off the top, peel or maul. Immediately back throw has three options, choices and decisions to make.
Special Moves – this involves some movement/choreography – but the name special moves makes the children feel special, move back and attack the front if opponents move back with you, if they don’t attack the back. Split line and throw to middle. Second man runs around the back and takes over the top throw. Back man runs into space left by number 10 and takes throw there. The beauty of these is that they are fun, they all involve the crucial elements of full adult lineout that being communication, movement, timing and teamwork. Most importantly your players will succeed and therefore build confidence.
This is only the initial building block of the lineout, it will not happen overnight, I would suggest at least 30 minutes of this a week. The 3 basic calls all have at least 3 variations, so you have 10 lineout calls which are all easy to remember.
It also means that you can build on these and as the game evolves you don’t have massive changes.
At Under 13s, you just have more space in which to throw, if you have followed the above principles that will prove an advantage.
At Under 16s you only have to teach to lift as your lineout principles have always been geared to lifting.
One last piece of advice, if you stand still you move backwards. Always add in something new, it keeps the players fresh and makes them think. They will not forget the basics, put simply it will increase their options and give them more decisions to make.