The purpose of this paper is to share a successful high performance coach’s approach to practicing unstructured aspects of team play to enhance team performance. The approach was implemented by Jim Mckay (attack coach) during the Queensland Red’s Super Rugby 2010–2013 campaigns. For team sports such as Rugby union, coaches need to assist players in developing their decision-making and execution under unpredictable and chaotic match conditions by scheduling a high proportion of playing form activities related to unstructured possession sources (e.g., response to turnover possession). This paper is organized into three sections. The first section provides an overview of relevant literature on coach-led practice sessions and dynamics system theory. This is followed by the Queensland Reds case study that outlines the data they analysed, the process and implementation of new practices and coach Mckay’s reflections. The final section provides suggestions for team sport coaches wanting to practice the unstructured aspects of team play.
Jim Mckay and Donna O’Connor
Jim McKay, Keith Davids, Sam Robertson, and Carl T. Woods
This is an exciting era for applied research in high-performance sporting environments. Specifically, there are growing calls for researchers to work with coaches to produce “real-world” case examples that offer first-hand experiences into the application of theory. While ecological dynamics has emerged as a guiding theoretical framework for learning and performance in sport, there is a caveat to its use in the field. Namely, there is a general paucity of applied research that details how expert coaches have brought life to its theoretical contentions in practice. In light of this, the current paper offers a unique insight into how a professional Rugby union organization set out to ground their preparation for competitive performance within an ecological dynamics framework. More directly, this paper details how the Queensland Reds designed and integrated a set of attacking game principles that afforded players with opportunities in practice to search, discover, and exploit their actions. While this paper offers insight specific to Rugby union, its learnings are transferrable to coaches in other sports looking to situate their practice design within an ecological dynamics framework.