I played Hooker professionally for 10 years and loved the technical challenge of throwing consistently under pressure. I can confirm that, composure, mental fortitude and technical skill, along with endless hours of practice are all required to perform the task of throwing.
I covered the Hooker’s Lineout Throwing Checklist in a previous article but here I’d like to focus on the ways you can improve your lineout throwing under pressure.
How to focus before a lineout throw
The mental aspect of lineout throwing is very important and similar to that of a golfer or a goal kicker. For me, having a checklist was crucial as it helped me be in the moment and focus on each individual throw. It also provided me with a way of analysing each throw. Confidence in anything comes from repetition and practice. Practising your throwing by using a checklist may seem cumbersome at first, but stick with it and before long, you will automatically go through your checklist without even thinking. This is the key to becoming a competent and confident lineout thrower.
“When someone kicks the ball out your heart is racing. You’re tired most of the time, you have to compose yourself to get the call, remember the call, understand the call and then throw the ball with pinpoint accuracy.”
Schalk Brits, Springboks and Saracens Hooker
International Throwing Coach Simon Hardy describes how he coaches 3 boxes to help Hookers focus.
“Box 1 SAYING (from field to touch line)
You can talk to your self about anything, chances are you are breathing heavily, just been hit, made a big tackle scrum etc.
Box 2 SEEING (just behind the point of touch)
You visualise the throw(s), control breathing, and prepare the ball /yourself (e.g. towel)
Box 3 SHOOTING (on the point of touch)
Step up and use trigger word/phrase/ physical action, clear head, let the training take over, throw”
How to deal with throwing under pressure
“When I was younger it would crack me that I would lose a throw” says Schalk Brits. Handling the pressure of throwing is something I believe improves with age and experience. I know I certainly learned how to deal with a poor throw late in my career.
When things go wrong, and they inevitably will, Hooker Schalk Brits recommends looking at all the variables not just the throw. “There’s a lot of different ways of throwing but the other variables for me are definitely the opposition, your pods lifting, the lock’s jumping in the right space, then, getting that timing. Finally if the call is correct or not correct.
When I look at the lineouts I’ve lost I look at all the variables and if it’s the throw – ball too high, throw too hard – then it’s my fault and it’s something I have to work on.”
This is one of the first things I tell any hooker I work with now. If you throw a poor lineout throw, forget about it immediately. Move on. There will be time to reflect but in the middle of the game, the most important thing is what happens next – not what just happened. While it is very important to forget about the poor throw in the middle of a game, it is important that hooker’s take the time to analyse and understand why the throw was not accurate.
Corey Flynn, Schalk Brits, Keven Mealamu – all hookers miss throws and all say bin it and move on.
“You have to put it behind you. When you are in a tight situation on the rugby field, you need to be in the moment and think about the job at hand,” says Keven Mealamu. “Save all the analysing for after the game when you get a chance to review the film and break down your throws to see where you went wrong. Just be in the moment and think about what you need to do to nail your throw.”
Lineout throwing coaches like Simon Hardy can help a player understand the issues they are having and he outlines common reasons for problems. “A run of bad form suggests either a lack of preparation, possibly a young inexperienced thrower developing a base knowledge or simply the player’s base skill level is not good enough. Anyway in both cases go back to doing repetitions and start the whole coaching process again.”
How to improve your lineout throwing as a hooker
Throwing is not a case of one-size fits all, each thrower has their own routine and technique but there are guidelines that if you adhere to, will improve your throwing. More importantly, your confidence will improve. Remember that there is no substitute for practice and to improve in a skill, takes time.
Check out my advice for hooker’s in the lineout section of LineoutCoach.com for more blogs and videos.