THE IMPORTANCE of pre-season training is to get your players ready for the beginning of the season. Yes your players need to be fit and match ready for the season opener, but don’t expect them to achieve an entire season’s fitness in during pre-season. This should be a constant effort throughout the season to keep your players fit and sharp. Fitness is of course vital for pre-season training, but so is making sure your players are well drilled and sharp. If you push them too much in fitness terms early on, you’re not going to get the best out of them when it comes to drills. You should expect your players to be hitting the treadmills and doing gym and fitness work outside training. It’s important not to push this too much when you get them together. When you have them together, focus on tactics and drills. Get the basics right Everything feels a bit new and alien at pre-season training. To the players getting their sports clothing on again after a few months off, to perfecting lineouts, scrums and back line plays. You can’t have them up to full momentum straight away; it’s important to get the basics right and start off slowly. You need to work on all the aforementioned areas, but you can build on these as the season progresses. Trying to remember the full spectrum of moves from the outset can confuse things. Make sure the simple things are done quickly and accurately first time and build from there. Expect high standards and demand the best You can allow for a little rustiness when pre-season first kicks off, but you need to set the standards and expectations from early on. If they’re not hitting these levels, they need to know what’s expected and the need to improve. Later down the line it’s harder to break bad habits. Don’t accept sorry. Accept getting it right next time. Include a game in each session Your players are turning up to enjoy themselves. Unless their pros, they’ll be taking time out of their otherwise busy lives to get out on the rugby pitch, so you have to give them what you want. You can put them through their paces, but you need to end with some enjoyment. Always include a small sided match at the end of each session. It keeps enjoyment levels up and can build on the skills you’ve been trying to drill in throughout the session. Encourage your players to come back each week It’s difficult enough when you can only work with your players once a week. If they miss a session at this stage of the season it can put everything back. You need them to turn up each week, but in order to guarantee this, it’s vital to offer enjoyment. Speak to your players after each session and find out what they enjoyed. If you can see smiles, sweat, banter and “thank yous” after the training, you’re doing things right. If players enjoy what they’re doing, the effort will flow from there. Pre-season can be hard for everyone involved; but when done right the benefits are obvious come match time.