‘Anticipation’ – The skill that can’t be coached?

Time and time again, in my own coaching and when supporting other coaches, I am always hearing use of the term ‘anticipation’ – the ability to play ahead of the game where the players are encouraged to better position themselves and almost as a result of this, create something from nothing. But how many
of us spend time with our playing focus solely on this specific skill? Too often as coaches are we guilty of believing that ‘anticipation’ is an innate ability?

If we think of some of the greatest players to have played the game (Richie McCaw, Brian O’Driscoll etc.), they have had the ability to anticipate where the ball is going to end up, where the next breakdown will be and who is going to break the line. This ‘ability’ would put them in the right position to finish off a try, be the first at the breakdown or make an accurate well-timed tackle. The fact that so many players at the top level can do this to such an impressive standard tell us it is a learned skill; and like all skills, it means it can be developed within our players.
Being the passionate coaches that we are, of course we all want the best for our players and their development, but surely we can develop a player’s skill to anticipate? If we were able to coach ‘anticipation’ would this inspire our players to be better problem solvers and decision makers?
My challenge to you as coaches is to think of innovative ways of including ‘anticipation’ in your sessions and refer to it regularly in order to ask your players how they can develop this skill. You may think it is best to apply this through micro-coaching (working with an individual) as opposed to the whole group but there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. If we can encourage our players to understand why anticipation is an important attribute to possess, then the greater we can improve not only our coaching capabilities but our players’ ability to get ahead of the game!

Rhys Davies
Head of Physical Performance 



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