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SEASON PLANNING ... to do or not to do!

We all know the value of good season planning ... right ... don't we?!

Do we do it well and do we review it well? They are the million dollar questions.

I am the first one to put my hand up to say I have done every version of season planning from highly detailed to none at all. And I will freely admit after over 20 years of coaching I can still be hit and miss with it. Who is nodding along with me?

For such a key element of excellent coaching practice it is one that can easily slip under the radar completely or be done in a very informal and hap hazard way. Sometimes we miss the real value of effective and practical season planning.

'Effective' and 'practical' are the key words. I believe some of us see season planning as a low priority however if we made the process and the outcome essential to our success then we may very well change our mindset towards it. But to make them essential to our success we need to see it as an effective tool and in a way where we can practically use it. How can we do this?

We need to make our season plan integral to the everyday preparation of our team. I do this by using a spreadsheet template that allows me to plan and track each component of the game, categorised into physical preparation, core skills, unit work and team work. By using the template I am able to get a good idea of what we will do, when we will do it and how much of it we will do. I account for time on each task and total it, then work out a percentage, so I can see what percentage of our program will be core skill, or unit work or team preparation. I could also set it up to go to another level of detail and work out what percentage was attack focused and defence focused, or individual skill components and how much time was spent on each of those.

I also colour code it in relation to levels of contact so we can get a good idea of when our training contact load will be high or low, and how that might relate to our periodisation. So, if we schedule a deload week, we can see easily, by the colour coding, that there may be minimal contact for that week.

I also link my session plans to that spreadsheet so I can move freely between the season plan and session plans. As a result, my mindset see's the season plan as an integral part of the process to prepare the team and the session plans. It's like having a jigsaw puzzle base (season plan) with the picture already on it, so it makes it easier to put all the pieces (session plans) in the right place.

This analytical approach to a season plan works for me but may not work for other coaches, however I believe the principles of season planning should be consistent. These principles justify why we should be consistent on the development but also the maintenance of our season plan.

Her are five principles of season planning that may just help in changing your mindset around where it sits on your priority list.

Appropriate content and intensity at the appropriate time

A good season plan will schedule the content in a logical and practical way so that the skills of the game are developed in a way that makes sense to the players and suits their stage of development.

Develops confidence in providing a quality program

By sharing the development of the season plan with your staff and then providing the outline to the players it will build a confidence that the program is well constructed and maintained. The players will believe that the staff know what they are doing.

Caters for the level of the group in all aspects

The program will be pitched at the correct level and will have suitable progressions. It will challenge without being boring or unachievable.

Provides a roadmap for achievements

It will give staff and players a clear indication of where they are at and where they will need to be at certain points in the program. These milestones can then be times of celebration which in turn creates confidence in the development process of individuals and the team as a whole.

Provides an organised reference for the purpose of reviewing the program

It will make the process of reviewing performance easier because it will provide a point of reference. At any stage during the season a review of performance can be correlated to the plan to see whether the team is in front or behind where it should be.

For more information and resources around season planning and all things rugby please join our coaching community at The Art of Rugby. It's free and is all about sharing knowledge and experience as rugby coaches.

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