Andy Farrell: Players respond to coaches who care

Farrell represented England at both rugby league and union as a player

Farrell represented England at both rugby league and union as a player

IRELAND rugby coach Andy Farrell says the most important thing for any coach is how they make the players feel.

Speaking to Rugby Coach Weekly, the former dual code international said his coaching philosophy had been largely shaped by his own experiences as a player.

“For me, it wasn’t about whether the coach was the best technically or tactically, but how he made you feel,” said Farrell, who took over as Ireland's Head Coach in January.

“The team is a reflection of you as a coach. Players want to play for a coach who cares about them.”

He joined his first club, Orrell St James in Wigan, as a 10-year-old, and his coach there was Haydn Walker.

“Since the parents were often at work, he would start at 4pm and drive around picking up all the players so they were able to train at six,” Farrell remembered. “He really cared for us, and so we repaid his faith by the way we performed.”

When he signed for the almighty Wigan in 1991, the coach of their reserve side was former player Graeme West.

“He still played, even though he was in his 40s, because he wanted to look after the youngsters,” Farrell said. “A few years later he went on to be the first-team coach and we won five trophies within a year.”

The former Great Britain international said “success comes from players being able to master the skills and apply them under pressure” and that this is where he focuses in training.

“We will go through the technical aspects in small drills before we get on to the pitch,” Farrell said. "That means we can put the players under pressure to perform in match-like scenarios as a group.

“The games help us see where the players are in terms of skills. We can then break this down, work on improving those skills and then put them back into a game to see if they stick.

“I use lots of small-sided games or situations with the players. I see it as an essential part of challenging the players to see if the players have got it in the first place.

“My coaching team do a lot of off-the-field coaching. At this level, we will do a lot of our learning in the classroom. That means we say less on the field and concentrate more on creating pressure on the skills.

“The top teams in the world are the masters of the basics. Your identity as a team is based upon what you’ve mastered. Players respect you more if you tell them what they need to improve and if they have clear goals. That comes from working towards mastering the basics.”

But Farrell warned that you must base your gameplan on the players you have at your disposal.

“It’s easy to watch the game on TV and think you can replicate that with your players," he said. "That’s a problem at all levels of the game as well.

“Before you even start to put in place a game plan and philosophy of how you want to play, you must understand what resources you have available.

“Again, it comes down to what your team can do, what they are capable of. It’s no good coming to training with a whole raft of ideas from the latest coaching camp you’ve been on if the players can’t do the simple things well.”

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