Being quick off the mark is all about strength and being able to apply as much force as possible into the ground for as long as possible. Think long powerful strides (but not over striding) rather than short choppy strides.
Teaching short, quick steps is where most coaches go wrong. Quick feet are needed when repositioning the feet underneath the body to side step but when you have committed to going through the gap, taking short steps is like a car spinning its wheels…. it will get you nowhere!
They will perform a four second sprint experiment to shown their current acceleration ability. I will then teach them the most effective acceleration position with ‘the wall drill’ and will then put them through a progression of acceleration starts that include ‘the falling start’, ‘rear foot elevated start’ and ‘resisted start’. These all demand a huge expression of force into the ground, promote triple extension of the ankle, knee and hip and reinforce the correct acceleration angles.
Then it is time for the re-test using their new and improved technique. The players will again sprint for four seconds to see if they can cover more ground in the same time. Using a simple experiment like this has a huge effect on the players as it shows them that concentrating on technique works (they can immediately see the effects of applying the correct techniques).
Once the acceleration techniques have been learned and improved, it is time to apply them to rugby with a game of ‘hospital pass’. This involves taking on four defenders with tackle shields just one meter from the line. If the attacker gets his angles wrong and fails to produce a powerful leg drive, they will have no chance of scoring and a big chance of being knocked backwards (they learn very quickly).