C.A.R.D.S: The Secret Sauce

Over the last year the C.A.R.D.S. acronym has become more and more popular in rugby coaching circles.

The term apparently comes from a study that was done on the fifteen best rugby players in the world (as chosen by directors of rugby and coaches in the English Premiership). The study found that these world-class players all excelled in the following five areas:

  • Creativity
  • Awareness
  • Resilience
  • Decision-making
  • Self-organisation

At first glance, the absence of physical skills and qualities in that list may be surprising. But I suppose it makes a lot of sense as there must be many thousands of people around the world who can run rapidly, pass perfectly, kick correctly, swerve circuitously, and tackle tenaciously. CARDS, on the other hand, is the secret sauce that separates the best from the brilliant.

When I found out about this, it immediately resonated with me, and I was keen to start using this secret recipe to develop my Under 9 squad into world-class rugby players. There was just one small problem: CARDS isn't a recipe - it's an end product. It doesn't tell you what to do. It shows you where you need to end up.

So how do you coach somebody to become creative? How do you develop resilience in your players? As of this writing, there is no CARDS "how to" guide online - not that I can find anyway. In the last few weeks the RFU has released online coaching material mentioning CARDS, specifically the article How CARDS are shaping England's Next Generation and the Game Changer series of videos on YouTube, which are very useful. But that's about it.

In the absence of prescriptive guidance, I guess it's down to us as coaches to put our thinking caps on, to be Creative ourselves, and to come up with ways of developing these excellent traits in our players. So, in the spirit of open reflection, I'm going to use a series of blog posts as a way of capturing and distilling my thoughts and any research I can find on the topics of Creativity, Awareness, Resilience, Decision-making and Self-organisation.