Morné

Improving decision-making in rugby


Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Original Content on 28 Sep 2010 at 11:55
Tagged with : ,

One of the biggest myths in sport is that players are born with exceptional talent, and that it cannot be coached.

It is a long standing argument which is mainly due to the fact that certain characteristic required for any sport can be measured, and some not.

Characteristics like physical strength, power, height, weight, speed, fitness and most physical aspects or requirements of any sport can be measured and controlled and this is mostly how coaches, and the general public ‘judge’ a player or athletes ability.  But when it comes to explaining the ‘immeasurable’, or that certain ‘genius’ certain players seem to posses, it becomes tricky and because people believe this cannot be measured, or controlled, they put it down to a player or an athlete having that something ‘extra’, or having that inbred ‘genius’ that cannot be coached – but they would be wrong.

In rugby union, or any other sport we have all heard the expression of a player having that ‘extra second’ or so much time on the ball which gives him the edge over his peers, enabling to seemingly always make the right decision at the right time to give him and his team the edge.

What most people do not realise however is that this process, or rather ‘skill’ that the player has, can be measured.  Not only that, it can even be improved.

Social, cultural, psychological, economic and even your immediate home environment and how you were brought up and situations you were exposed to as an individual either allowed you to develop skills or methods of gathering information and processing them, which is what can explain the occurrences you find in rugby and other sports where certain individuals have already developed these aspects of their play more than others.  The point still remains, it is a measurable process, and therefore, a coach-able process.

The reason certain sportsmen and women seem to have ‘more time on the ball’ or better decision-making abilities (what largely defines a great athlete) is quite simply because are able to use the system, or framework in the decision-making process better than others.

Any decision, whether in sport or in life, is made on the information available to the individual and the time he or she has to make the decision.  In sport and in rugby it becomes more complex since the decision-making process is different from let’s say, making a decision in the boardroom of a company after studying information.

When information or the situation is in constant change, as is the case in rugby, an individual needs to be coached to improve certain aspects of the processes he goes through in the decision-making model to allow him to make better decisions.

Information is gathered in rugby mainly through two areas, visual and audio (communication).  A player, in any aspect or situation in the game needs to gather as much information as possible in order to process this information and make a decision.

Information gathered through hearing is mainly done through communication or players constantly communicating or talking to one another.  Pieter Rossouw, the backline coach for the Blue Bulls swears by the theory that no player in the team ever keeps quiet, but constantly communicates to players around him giving him information as to the movements of the opposition players and themselves.

This is a skill or measurable medium which can be adopted by any team or individual.

The gathering of information through your vision, or visual perception is also a skill that can be coached, measured and improved through coaching as the work Dr. Sherylle Calder has done has proved.

The next step in decision making process is the processing of data acquired.

The player now has to process the important bits of information, discard the not-so-important bits and then make a decision.

As can be logically deduced, the ability for a player to ‘predict’ an outcome from the information he acquired, plays a major role in the difference between a good, and bad decision.  Clever people refer to a model of novice and expert decision making processes which quite simply means a player with more experience, will be able to identify ‘patterns’ quicker than a novice and therefore is more likely to make a decision quicker – giving him ‘more time’.

It is however important to also remember another vital aspect of this process in an environment like rugby.

A decision made by a player or its outcome cannot only be measured by that individual’s decision or execution as the outcome, or success of the outcome is also reliant on other players part of executing the initial decision.  In other words, a player may have made the right decision to do a skip pass, but if the center or wing intended to catch the ball drops the pass the outcome is negative but not necessarily so because of the decision made.

Aspects that also influence decision making in rugby includes sport or position-specific knowledge (experience, familiarity and level of comfort with the position), and mechanical or motor ability (passing, tackling, kicking, etc skills we are all familiar with) of the player.

Again important to note however, all of these can be measured and controlled, and therefore be coached.

Studies have shown that each individual perceives or process information differently or quicker than the next guy, and a large part of this is adopting more efficient visual strategies (how efficient you gather information for quicker processing) outside of normal or better known skills or abilities to improve the player himself, and his decision-making.

It is important to note that no skill in isolation can define success in a player, and that a combination, and different ratio’s that make up the combination which will be different from player-to-player, needs to be applied holistically to improve a player’s overall skills.

What is important and vital in professional sport however, is that all aspects and factors that does influence player ability is identified, and incorporated into the coaching handbook of every professional coach.



29 Comments

  • So you werent joking about a follow-up article. :wink: Great job as always.

  • Comment 1, posted at 28.09.10 12:02:28 by Jarson Reply
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  • Thanks Morne, your article was good and informative, as always.

  • Comment 2, posted at 28.09.10 12:09:57 by war1 Reply
    Author
    war1Super Rugby player
     
  • Always enjoy reading your articles. Marvellous stuff Morne.

  • Comment 3, posted at 28.09.10 12:23:35 by Crock Reply

    CrockUnder 21 player
     
  • ‘(how efficient you gather information for quicker processing)’ so what you’re saying is that it depends on whether the player was issued with i3, i5 or i7 processor and the coaching is the amount of RAM assisting the processor :?: :lol:

    Jokes aside….I recon that you actually need more intelligent players in key positions like SH and FH.

  • Comment 4, posted at 28.09.10 12:23:49 by Pokkel Reply
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  • wow brilliant!!

  • Comment 5, posted at 28.09.10 12:23:55 by ruggabugga Reply

    ruggabuggaVodacom Cup player
     
  • Yes but you need a better graphics card so that they can see whats comming faster….lol

  • Comment 6, posted at 28.09.10 12:31:46 by Uli Reply
    Valued Sharksworld Supporter
    Uli BoelieTeam captain
     
  • @Uli (Comment 6) : :lol:

  • Comment 7, posted at 28.09.10 12:37:45 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Uli (Comment 6) : not to mention the extra wide shot lens…

  • Comment 8, posted at 28.09.10 12:43:11 by Pokkel Reply
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  • You studied six sigma by any chance?? :lol:

  • Comment 9, posted at 28.09.10 12:55:58 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner IceAssistant coach
     
  • @Ice (Comment 9) :

    I did, but it is not the same methodology as you would find in sport or in this instance.

    Six Sigma is mainly employed to eliminate ‘defects’ in organisation or manufacturing processes, the premise we use in sport is not so much seen as ‘defects’ just underdeveloped skills.

    Where it does aim to achieve the same result or in its methodology is that most things can be analyzed, controlled, measured and effectively improved as per much of what I say above is the same.

    Where it differs completely is that Sigma looks to create a stable, predictable environment which is exactly what you don’t want in sport!

    ;)

  • Comment 10, posted at 28.09.10 13:07:11 by Morné Reply
    Author
    MornéTeam captain
     
  • @Morné (Comment 10) : Black belt?? :wink:

  • Comment 11, posted at 28.09.10 13:10:42 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner IceAssistant coach
     
  • @Ice (Comment 11) :

    Green :razz:

  • Comment 12, posted at 28.09.10 13:12:27 by Morné Reply
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    MornéTeam captain
     
  • @Morné (Comment 12) : same here..

  • Comment 13, posted at 28.09.10 13:14:28 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner IceAssistant coach
     
  • @Ice (Comment 13) :

    Found it a limited methodology to be honest, but as the saying goes, everyone to their own.

  • Comment 14, posted at 28.09.10 13:15:17 by Morné Reply
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    MornéTeam captain
     
  • Anycase I must be off till much later, ciao.

  • Comment 15, posted at 28.09.10 13:16:06 by Morné Reply
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    MornéTeam captain
     
  • @Morné (Comment 14) : boring! LOL I hate those things!

  • Comment 16, posted at 28.09.10 13:18:52 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner IceAssistant coach
     
  • So longgggggggggg

    @Crock (Comment 3) : don’t give him abig head he’ll write even more long novels ;-)
    gee i really didn’t think his follow up would be so long but thats Morne from SW :mrgreen:

  • Comment 17, posted at 28.09.10 13:22:56 by chaz Reply

    ChazTeam captain
     
  • I decided to only read the first paragraph and comments. :mrgreen:

  • Comment 18, posted at 28.09.10 14:20:44 by McLovin Reply

    McLovinAssistant coach
     
  • @Ice (Comment 11) : @Morné (Comment 12) : I was never allowed to do karate… :mrgreen:

  • Comment 19, posted at 28.09.10 14:24:37 by McLovin Reply

    McLovinAssistant coach
     
  • @McLovin (Comment 18) : thatscutting it short isn’t it ;-)

  • Comment 20, posted at 28.09.10 14:37:37 by chaz Reply

    ChazTeam captain
     
  • @McLovin (Comment 19) : :shock: if i may ask why to strong for the other guys :oops: ;-)

  • Comment 21, posted at 28.09.10 14:38:21 by chaz Reply

    ChazTeam captain
     
  • @chaz (Comment 21) : Ja, let’s go with that. I was too strong… ;-) :lol:

  • Comment 22, posted at 28.09.10 14:43:49 by McLovin Reply

    McLovinAssistant coach
     
  • Another great read. I will be looking forward to the next installment tomorrow ;-)

  • Comment 23, posted at 28.09.10 15:07:47 by lostfish Reply
    Valued Sharksworld Supporter Competition Winner
    lostfishSuper Rugby player
     
  • ” In sport and in rugby it becomes more complex since the decision-making process is different from let’s say, making a decision in the boardroom of a company after studying information”

    Trust a person from the field of sports to assume that sports decision-making is harder than making decisions involving millions of Rands and many livelihoods. :lol:

    Nice article.

  • Comment 24, posted at 28.09.10 15:26:42 by Big Fish Reply
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    Big FishAssistant coach
     
  • I disagree with you Morne. To some extent yes, you can improve a players decision making, but there definitely is something like natural talent.

    Sport and anything else does involve talent. The best chefs, pianist, golf players, composers, tennis players are the best because they have talent and then they practice a lot to perfect that talent.

    Some people can be coached and can practice as much as they like, but they’ll never be as good as someone that born with that talent.

    You can identify that someone has a talent at an early age and hone that raw talent, but everyone is better in different things.

  • Comment 25, posted at 28.09.10 20:44:18 by Letgo Reply
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  • I have perfected my talent, ‘The Art Of Couch Potato-ing’ :oops: :razz:

  • Comment 26, posted at 28.09.10 21:02:28 by Jarson Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 25) :

    Social, cultural, psychological, economic and even your immediate home environment and how you were brought up and situations you were exposed to as an individual either allowed you to develop skills or methods of gathering information and processing them, which is what can explain the occurrences you find in rugby and other sports where certain individuals have already developed these aspects of their play more than others.

    and…

    Characteristics like physical strength, power, height, weight, speed, fitness and most physical aspects or requirements of any sport can be measured and controlled and this is mostly how coaches, and the general public ‘judge’ a player or athletes ability.

    If you were never exposed to something, how would you ever develop a ‘talent’ for it?

  • Comment 27, posted at 28.09.10 21:02:52 by Morné Reply
    Author
    MornéTeam captain
     
  • That’s true, but some people will develop certain talents when exposed to certain things, where others won’t.

    Like I said, I do agree with you to a degree, especially that we can’t just look at a players “natural talent” and expect them to be greats. Those talents need to be developed.

  • Comment 28, posted at 28.09.10 22:39:59 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 28) :

    It is a debate myself and Brand have been having for ages, the ability to condition, or more importantly, re-condition the brain.

    My question has always been how to you define talent, or where does talent, or potential talent sit or exist in humans?

  • Comment 29, posted at 29.09.10 08:36:54 by Morné Reply
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    MornéTeam captain
     

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