In this article I want to challenge your thinking on catching an attacking high ball. For the moment, at least, we will consider the important skill set of defensive catching on a separate occasion.
I want to discuss a long term observation of mine regarding “safe” catching. I am referring to the age-old technique of catching on the chest with a body rotation to protect the ball. Traditionally speaking, this has been the preferred method for players at either end of the paddock. From a young age junior ruggers are taught these fundamentals of securing the ball in the air.
But what if this is part of an attacking opportunity?
Then that’s where some “ownership” of the ball must be demonstrated by the attacking players in a contest. At this point I am resisting any comment on players that leave a high ball to bounce, risking losing possession and a counter from the opposition! By ownership I am referring to a dominance of the contest that will give the best opportunity of securing possession outrightand perhaps a win result from the play. Unfortunately it is far from safe in the traditionalists eyes, but I am here to promote attacking rugby AND the fact that the required skills can be coached…..At the level of competition where winning is paramount, this weaponry is gold for any outside back.
The only sustainable advantage in an aerial contest with opposition players is to create aheight advantage using good vertical leap and catching in the hands. For me the days of safe chest catching are over for “high ball” attacking attempts. Let me qualify, there is time and place for chest marking, but so much is to gain from coaching outside backs to catch above their head in an attacking raid.
We, as coaches, should empower our players with all the tools for them to make in-match decisions to their advantage. For development coaches, this is understandably a difficult concept to promote, but we must facilitate an environment where players are trusted to make decisions as they see fit in any given moment or play. This is in fact how they will learn, right? Give them the tools and trust.….
Ok so tell me more about this catching technique….
A successful outcome will see a clean(er) catch that is easier to transition to further phase play, pass etc and using commanding height clears other arms and distractions in the air.
Many players are reluctant to train this way as it has been ingrained to catch safely on the chest. In my coaching, I work towards educating these players that with the following elements they too can catch safe and strong above theirhead with correct positioning of the arms, hands and pressure of the fingers.