Making core skills fun

Making core skills fun - With examples involving ball handling

By Dan Cottrell

Core skills training can be a chore. Here's how to add some variety to make the process more fun and develop the skills quicker.

Improving the core skills is important for players and the team. But players, however motivated, will need some new ways of approaching the core skills to add variety to drills and practices, with examples involving ball handling particularly.


Add more variety to your drills. For example, practice normal passing and then change to an unusual form of passing before returning to the core pass being examined. For instance when looking at offloads, make the players try one handed back flicks in the tackle for a couple of rounds of the drill.

Time trials

After going through some of the drills, try putting a time limit on achieving a certain target. For example, five passes in one area followed by fives passes in another in 30 seconds.

The element of pressure builds a certain amount of tension, but also can lead to players enjoying the success. If they can beat their own or other players' times, they will enjoy the task even more.

Unusual areas

Don't just practice in boxes or circles, use different shapes set out by cones. This will force players to think in different ways. Some coaches set out a snake like shape with differing widths in which players must progress up the pitch.

Also try handling on a sharper incline, or in long grass.

Different size balls

With all the different types of promotional balls, as well as age group balls, there are at least five separate sizes of rugby ball out there. Don't just practice with one size, get the players to handle using all shapes and sizes in one practice. The variety of shapes will challenge players to change the way they may take and give a pass.

Different balls

And one should not just think of different rugby balls, but also try using tennis balls, footballs (have you ever tried spinning one of those?) or even beach balls. All could add an element of fun, if not enhance your players' understanding of ball handling.

Resistance running and passing

Resistance running is where one player holds on to another's shirt or shorts as they try to run forward. The idea is to let the player make some progress, but making them work significantly harder than they would do normally.

Have you tried this technique with ball handing? After all, players do not always have the luxury of passing unhindered.

Cones as distracters

In passing drills, make a player carry a cone in one hand. They are allowed to use the cone and other hand to catch the ball, but they must release or pass the ball using the hand without the cone. Once they have made right hand passes, then get them to change hands. Move on to getting players to take passes one handed, replicating the times in the game when they need to take contact with the other arm. One handed pass to one handed catcher is not going to move the ball quickly across the field, but it might be very useful in a tight situation.

Pop pass

By Paul Tyler, an SRU Level 3 Coach, and Joint Editor of Rugby Coach Weekly

The "pop pass" is a short pass, used to allow a receiver to run on to the ball at pace. The ball is "popped up" into the air, so the receiver does not need to break his stride to catch it.

The technique

There are four fundamental stages for a good pop pass:

1. Fingers down

The ball is held in the fingers, with the passer's fingertips pointing down at the ground.

2. Waist height

The ball is popped (flicked) up off the fingertips from about waist height.


3. Chest and head height

The ball is popped to a point between chest and head height. This allows the receiver to take the pass and quickly re-focus on where he is running.

4. Straight up

The ball is popped straight up in the air and not toward the receiver. This encourages the receiver to run on to the ball. It also makes it easier for the receiver to catch the ball in full flight.


    G4S logo 2 ball sml   Peter Inglis NewLogo  NSGALhart logo

Contact Us

Please contact us via email.

You are here: Home TRAINING Coaching Tools Making core skills fun