Former England Rugby Star Uses Technology to Transition into Coaching
Former England Rugby Star Uses Technology to Transition into Coaching
After 300 games in Premiership Rugby and 33 caps for the England national team, Richard Wigglesworth is using analysis technology to make the leap from professional player to high-level coach.
From the age of 16, Richard Wigglesworth knew he wanted to be a professional rugby player and after a distinguished 18 years career as player, he now knows that coaching is his next move, with his motives being in his words to “help teams and players get better and get the most out of themselves”.
Aside from an attack coach role with RFU Championship side Ealing Trailfinders, Wiggleworth’s first major break as a coach came at the 2019 Rugby World Cup where he served as kicking and defence coach for Canada.
But while playing and coaching have several overlaps in terms of knowledge and application, there are several areas that need to be bridged in the transition phase. Wigglesworth explains how he worked with the Canada performance analysts to upskill in the specifics of game analysis to accelerate his growth as a coach.
“I had two young analysts for Canada in the World Cup that were really good, they taught me a lot on how to use analysis software. “I would tell them what I was thinking tactically and they would help me put videos together if I had a clear idea of what I wanted,” said Wigglesworth. “So, I would turn up to them with a Sportscode organizer already ready and they really helped me with that process of how you pull an organizer together — sorting and editing clips. I learned a lot in those eight or nine weeks, going from complete novice, to not having put anything together with video, to going to the analyst with an organizer.”
The Sportscode Movie Organizer allows for coaches and analysts to select certain instances from the game for review and presentation purposes. Users can also add notes and drawings to the clips for extra information. It’s these visuals that have helped Wigglesworth understand how players react and adapt to video-based feedback.
“The game has got so much more visual, but it’s also adapting to what the players now need,” said Wigglesworth. “The players need short bursts of really clear information and you can’t really get that by sitting and watching a whole game. I was naive in thinking that the analyst does what you want, as in ‘I need, this, this and this’. They’re obviously the brains behind it, but as a coach, I realized quickly that you also need to be the one with the skills on the computer to be able to put it analysis together, So you’re not wasting too much time.”
Wigglesworth’s role as kicking and defence coach for Canada required specific tactical knowledge of key instances in the game, which he went on to explain in-depth.
“The big thing was set piece, you’ve obviously got your own defense, but it’s how you analyse the other teams set piece and kicking game that’s also important,” “One click of a button to have every one of the other teams’ exits or kick offs is extremely helpful so you can then design a plan with a thought process of what they do in mind. “For example, we found with South Africa, they kicked every kickoff reception back to you. The video showed they’ve received 70 kickoffs and kicked all 70 back.Those are the sorts of things that you can pull straight away from Sportscode and to help with our set piece defense.”
“One click of a button to have every one of the other teams’ exits or kick offs is extremely helpful so you can then design a plan with a thought process of what they do in mind”
Coaching in a World Cup environment brings unique challenges not seen at club level as coaches only spend a small amount of time with players pre-tournament and there are many unknowns within opposition teams compared playing in say, the Premiership, where it’s common to come by the same teams, players and structures.
“In the World Cup, certainly in terms of knowledge, our players were playing against teams and players that they’ve never played against and lots of times, hadn’t seen,” said Wigglesworth. “So I showed videos of what moves off the line outs they used, when they use them and what cues we can show the players, like how opposition players stand or set up in certain game situations. It’s what clips you leave out rather than what you show, because there’s so much information available and you don’t want to be the kind of coach who tells the players everything then says I’ve already told you that. You want to highlight information that sticks.”
For the defensive side of his role with Canada, Wigglesworth utilized the Sportscode Timeline to analyze opposition attack phases. The Sportscode timeline is where users can view instances that have been coded. Users can easily skip through moments to find exactly what they are looking for.
“The timeline is great, for example when I’m watching the ball in play, I’m specifically looking at a team’s attack and it’s easy for me to break it down,” said Wigglesworth. “I was doing defence and kicking on a short turnaround, so as I watch the game, I need to be able to watch the other team’s set pieces and put them all together in one click and then be able to identify trends in what they do. The ability to one click to specific instances of what you want is a massive time saver and allows me as a coach to focus my attention on what matters the most.”
“Analysis takes the uncertainty out of our decision making and I can actually look at this bit of detail and say, yes, that’s exactly what happened, he made this mistake, or we were too tight here, or too wide here — there’s no guesswork involved.”
The ability to make decisions with live feedback is always an asset in a fast-moving sport such as rugby union, which is a sport that combines several complex and microskills. “As a coach you have to trust what you see, so at the World Cup we had our two analysts sat in front of us, producing live stats that we may want to be looking at,” said Wigglesworth.
“But then being able to rewind those instances from that analysts through Sportscode and see exactly what’s happening and why could then help you deliver, not what you think is the right message, but what is the right message because that’s what’s actually happened on pitch. So the analysis takes the uncertainty out of our decision making and I can actually look at this bit of detail and say, yes, that’s exactly what happened, he made this mistake, or we were too tight here, or too wide here — there’s no guesswork involved.”
Another thing Wigglesworth has learned by joining the coaching ranks is that solid evidence reigns supreme over the kind of emotional decision making that often takes place on the field.
“Analysis It takes the emotion out of decision making and obviously the coaches box can be a very emotional place, but sometimes the ability to just think with a clear head is key,” said Wigglesworth. “The certain trends in a game and also mistakes, all the good and bad stuff you’re doing as a team, with analysis you know why something is happening rather than just going on how you feel. It just lets you know that you are on the right track, because you may feel like you’ve had all of the game but actually it’s been pretty even. It gives clarity to what we are thinking and can correct you if you make an emotional call rather than a correct one.
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