Lessons from Rugby for American Football
The comments on my post regarding the football players working out with the girl’s volleyball team have been interesting. I do very little with American football; this was a conscious choice when I quit playing football a long time ago, but that does not mean that I have not closely observed the training scene for the past 45 years. Over the years I have worked with some individual players at all levels of the game and have consulted with some coaches who were willing to innovate. I find American football quite stifling and uncreative both in regards to tactics, strategy and conditioning. I know I have to be careful about painting with too broad a brush but the monkey see monkey do syndrome is all pervasive. Once someone started flipping tires and they won a few games then everybody has to flip tires. No idea of where and how it fits into the big picture, but because it is hard and sometimes they puke when they are doing it has to be good. This is indicative of the trickle down effect that starts at the top and ends up in the youth leagues. There is little regard for development level and sound progressions. The emphasis is on getting bigger and strong with little regard for developmental level. Freshmen should not be doing the same program as seniors whether at the high school or the collegiate level. Positions should be trained differently based on the demands of the position.
I think a good way to loom to look at it is to contrast American football with Rugby Union and Rugby League. Both play very demanding schedules, in some ways more so than American football. For example in the English Premier league they play from September through to May with international games thrown in. There is no situational substitution, so a high level of fitness is required. They are collision sports, so you must have bulk for padding and strength to move people. As I have been exposed more to rugby I feel that they are much more progressive and innovative than American football. They are doing things that American football has never thought of. I see some of the things that my colleague Dean Benton is doing with the Brisbane Broncos and I am amazed. I can’t help but think what an edge those things would give an American football team that would adopt them. The New Zealand All Blacks are doing training monitoring that is state of the art. What Kelvin Giles is doing with the Australian Rugby Union Developmental squad (14 – 17 in residence) is great stuff that takes into consideration proper progressions and growth and development. What I see in the rugby situations is that it is sport science based training coupled with good coaching and player development models.
American football needs to wake up and learn that there is a big world out there that they can learn from. I will post later on some of my ideas about athletic development for American football. Suffice to say that there is enormous room for innovation that would significantly improve athleticism and reduce injuries. Remember it is tough to solve to solve a problem by going to those who created problem for a solution. HAPPY COMBINE TRAINING!