Proudly Supporting Tasman Rugby


CEO Chat with Tony Lewis

The age group and JAB rugby season is about to start in the coming weeks, at the TRU this year we want to make sure the participants in this competition enjoy the experience of playing rugby. The behavior of adults (coaching or spectator) on the sidelines has a direct correlation to young rugby players enjoying and returning to the game the following year – FACT.

I was reading a great article last week about coaching. I believe with junior rugby about to start the ideas and concepts are important for our coaches and the spectators. We know from the research we completed with our stakeholders in Tasman Age Group players that the three (3) most crucial factors for them wanting to play rugby are in this order:

  1. Having fun
  2. Being with their mates
  3. Learning new skills

And, these require:

  1. Meaningful competition
  2. Good coaching
  3. Good refereeing

I am sure most of you are surprised that there is no mention of winning. Those coaches or clubs who establish the super team with the attitude to win at all costs are doing the players and the game a disservice.

We at the Tasman Rugby Union are acutely aware that rugby clubs are run by volunteers on a part time basis with limited budgets and even less spare time.  The reality for rugby clubs in our region, is that parent-coaches are the majority coaches working with our young players. These coaches have an enormous impact on whether our rugby players enjoy the experience and/ or play the following year.

We know, that without parent-coaches, they’d be no junior rugby at club or even representative level in our region. as we know it.

Wayne Goldsmith from Auckland Sport & Recreation mention the following five Tips to Thrive – being a parent-coach.

  1. Make up your mind to enjoy it.
  2. Let them learn by doing: The game is their real coach. Don’t over-coach. One of the biggest mistakes Gen X, Y and Z coaches make is to coach the way they were coached, i.e. lots of talking, lots of instruction, very structured training environments, an over-reliance on mindless repetition, far too many drills and way too much fitness work. Let the players play. Instead doing a long warm up and far too much stretching – just let them get out on the field or on the court and do what they came to do – PLAY! Then – as their play progresses – and if you see an opportunity to coach a little – do it. But make your coaching secondary to the actual playing of the game. Make playing the game central to every training session and you’ll soon see your players’ skills – and smiles - progress very rapidly. 
  3. Remember the L.E.A.R.N. concept of kids and sport:
    • Learning is everything: and kids learn by doing. Keep them active. Keep them moving. Make training sessions short – but fast, engaging, dynamic and interesting.
    • Enjoyment is the key. Make it fun.
    • Adults are there to love, support, encourage and praise their children, not to coach from the sidelines, criticise and cause chaos.
    • Routine – be consistent. Children respond well to being organised with simple systems and structures.
    • Nod and smile as often as possible. Be positive. Be constructive. Be happy.
  4. Have three very clear rules and team policies, apply them consistently and don’t change them during the season. E.g.
    • Be on time – every time: this simple rule sets a clear philosophy of order, structure and gives the impression you’re organised.
    • Every child will have an equal opportunity to play: this is an important role as it makes a clear statement to players and parents about your philosophy on team selections. This is an essential rule to have in place particularly if your own child is in the team you are coaching.  Make it known that every child – regardless of talent, playing skill, size, speed, strength or experience – will be treated equally.
    • Parents will act with dignity, respect, love, kindness and honesty at all times. The players will look, listen and learn from the behaviour of the adults around the team. If the players’ parents are loud, annoying, abusive to officials and negative towards opposition teams, then the players will (unfortunately) learn that this is “normal” behaviour for sporting situations. 
  5. Encourage fun, friendships and family engagement in all training and competition activities. The research into the reasons why kids play sport – (and stop playing sport) - is remarkably consistent all over the world. For children, sport is all about having fun, making friends and learning. Training sessions are short, sharp, fast, fun and interesting – and if they involve every member of the team – then you’ll have an enjoyable season of coaching.  


  1. As much as possible allow the kids to just play and allow the game to be their teacher.
  2. Just be a kind, consistent, caring, compassionate and calm coach and you’ll have a wonderful coaching experience.
  3. Think of the parents of the children in the team as being your “partners”. Be clear with them about your expectations of their attitudes, standards and behaviours.
  4. Kids don’t care how much you know – they need to know how much you care.
  5. Enjoy every minute of the experience.

Tony Lewis