A well-played pass can break down a defense and create try scoring opportunities so fine tuning passing skills is critical although it can be repetitive. One odd looking but very effective piece of equipment to help improve your passing skills is the rugby rebounder and best of all it doesn’t require a teammate to train with you.
By Kimber Rozier CSCS, Pn1 – If you’re anything like me, you’ll find a way to train anytime, anywhere. Growing up I spent hours in my parents basement practicing my soccer skills (I had yet to discover the joy of rugby) and took a ball with me literally everywhere – shopping centers, amusement parks, birthday parties, even to class.
That obsession transferred well into adulthood after I picked up rugby. I travel through airports with a ball in hand, find empty spaces in car parks, and admittedly I still train in my parents’ basement at home. Thanks Mom and Dad.
However, this often puts me at a loss of a training partner to pass with. As a 10, passing and catching seems to be an important part of the job. So I find walls and buildings to throw against (note: don’t throw at your neighbors houses or open businesses. They won’t like it).
I can’t tell you how much time I waste chasing after a ball as it awkwardly bounces off of the wall, on to the floor, and rolls down the street.
Thankfully, some geniuses decided to invent a rebounder rugby ball. Like a little ball sliced in half, this pass developer is flat on one end. That way, the ball can bounce cleanly off of the wall and neatly back in your hands. Here’s what’s great about training with one of these:
- You can easily train passing by yourself
- Less chasing after the ball
- Get lot of reps in a short space of time
- Great to practice both catch and pass without a friend
Most companies even ensure the weight of the rebounder mimics a match ball, despite being cut off at the end.
The downside is that you can’t really practice efficient transfers. Sure, you could catch it, rotate it and then throw with the other hand, but that’s a waste of a movement with a real ball. It also limits your pass to just a spin pass, negating the ability to practice push passes, pops or offloads.
What you can use it for, however, is quick reaction catch and release with the same hand. Or to get in a ton of reps from a static position. Throw a crisp, straight line pass and you’ll get it back. Make an error or throw it too soft and you’ll be chasing the ball anyways. Take the following drills into your next solo practice session, and you’ll get immediate feedback as to the quality of your pass.
Kneeling SH Pass
Practice getting your wrist power by taking the rest of your body out of the equation. Kneel on the floor with your back knee furthest from the wall. The leg closest to the wall should be up, forming a little window through which you can toss the ball. Place the rebounder just in front of your kneeling leg with both hands in a passing position. Back hand should be along the back side of the ball, while your guide hand grips closer to the front. Using your back hand, pass from the base and fire the ball through your leg towards the wall. Complete 15-20 passes on one hand before switching hands (and legs).
You’ll notice that your front leg stops you from completing the pass with your arms. This means you’ll have to overemphasize the use of your wrist strength. Ultimately the wrist is where the power of your pass goes through, so the better you can fire the ball through with control, the crisper your passing will be.
Passing from the Hip
From a standing position, practice firing the ball directly from the hips without any recoil. Start about 5 m from a wall with the rebounder just in front of your waist, nose pointed straight back and the flat end facing a wall. Place your passing hand just along the far side of the ball by the nose, and your guide hand underneath the flat end. Keeping your elbow in line with your wrist, use the back hand to punch straight through the pass towards the wall. Don’t let your elbow move back any more from its original starting position – it can only travel in the direction of the pass. Do 10-20 reps each side.
If you’re having trouble limiting recoil, you can practice with a wall, fence, or other object just behind your passing elbow. That way if you try and pull back, you’ll just run into a block. Rather than just rely on momentum, this helps you engage your core to pass and power through the triceps and wrist. You’ll be able to see the quality of your pass instantly.
Quick Reload Spin Pass
Finally, you can move on to traditional spin passing. Make sure to implement all of the basics from above. Start slow and make sure you’re consistently hitting the target from 5, 10 and 15 m away.
Once you’re good and consistent you can start to speed things up. By firing the ball quickly at a target, you can practice catching it in the way you’re going to pass. Try not to readjust the hands as you catch, quickly absorb the ball and pass straight back through to the target. If your hand positioning is slightly off, you have to move to catch it, or your balance is off, you might miss the target. Really focus on finishing with the hands extended outward and going to meet the ball as you catch it.
After all is said and done, you should be really comfortable with a ball in your hands. Get tons of touches on the ball and you’ll be able to do more with it without thinking. Feel free to warm up with these drills with a regular ball as well. Work hard, and the next time you’re at training, impress the coaches by how much your pass has improved.
Kimber Rozier is a NSCA certified strength and conditioning specialist and Precision Nutrition nutritionist who holds dual Bachelor’s degrees in Exercise and Sport Science and Spanish from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She spends her time traveling the world as an international rugby player for the USA and her career in 7s and 15s has taken her to places such as Hong Kong, Paris, London, and Dubai. She earned a bronze medal in the 7s World Cup in Moscow and played fly half for the squad throughout 15s 2014 Rugby World Cup in Paris. Kimber has recently played overseas in Ireland, furthering her career with Railway Union and as an athlete with Scion Rugby Academy out of Washington, D.C. She is currently training with Harlequins in England.