Catching the High Ball.
Catching is a core skill in rugby. Developing your ability to consistently take a pass at pace and under pressure helps your team retain possession and build momentum. Being a safe pair of hands under a high ball makes you an asset at restarts and in open play when a team kicks for territory.
Being able to catch a high ball under pressure is a skill that wings need to perfect. Many teams use the high arching kicks to put the opposing team under pressure and if you have the skills to beat someone one on one in the air that will set you apart from most players. You’ve got to attack the high ball, relish it and see it as a challenge. When you see the ball in the air you’ve got to go and meet it rather than have the ball come down to you. The way you jump into a high ball is you have your leading knee on one side and your hands up to the sky and you take the ball.
How to Win the High Ball
Coaches can help their players by working with them in several key areas.
Positional skills: understanding where the ball is going to land and how to create space.
Physical strengths: ability to accelerate into the contact area and developing explosive power to get off the ground.
Catching: work on getting a player’s hands high and the process of the catch down before adding in the jump.
Practice different types of catches – catching overhead with our hands in the air, one handed catching, catching two handed, catching without any hands and just using your elbows.
Jumping: learn to lead with one leg or with a knee to give a little extra propulsion off the opposition player.
Once the process is in place there are three things a player should do when competing for the high ball in a game.
Communicate – let your team mates know you are going for the ball.
Commit – once you have made the decision and told your team mates you must attack the ball.
Execute – first job first, focus on catching the ball.
Practising Under Pressure
If players are to build their confidence and to learn how to focus under pressure it is important to practice catching technique in match-like conditions. Here is advice from four USA Rugby team regulars on how to compete in the air.