Sports champions know that practice makes permanent, so it is crucial that your technique is right from the start. The ShadowBall Pass Booster programme was created with this vision and the ShadowBall Academy is ensuring that it is delivered to rugby players nationwide, radically upskilling passing and catching abilities.

“The principle that says practice makes perfect is just not true,” says ShadowBall inventor, Gary Crookes. “If a player uses the wrong techniques, they will not be able to improve their skills.

“Once I had designed the ShadowBall, it was imperative that we work out how a player or a coach could effectively use the tool and get massive increases in passing and catching abilities within a very short space of time,” he says.

Crookes approached the University of Stellenbosch Centre for Human Performance Sciences who helped develop the initial nine drills. Then with assistance from top ex-Springboks like Gcobani Bobo and experienced rugby skills coaches such as Blikkies Groenewald, as well as scientific sports science expert, Dr. Ray Finch, they conducted the initial testing at Jeppe High School For Boys in Johannesburg.

“We developed a battery of tests to assess the skills today and in four weeks’ time again after being exposed to the programme,” says Finch. “We tested standing passing accuracy from both a player’s dominant and non-dominant side, as well as running passing and catching.”

After four weeks, the Jeppe Boy’s top performer improved his passing accuracy by 266%. As a group, they averaged 20% more accurate passing ability than the control group.

“The drills impact how well a player passes, how confident they are to pass and enables better decision making on the field,” says former Springbok 15’s Center and Springbok 7’s captain Gcobani Bobo.

The Pass Booster Programme then went on to be used South Africa’s Deaf National Rugby team. “At the end of four weeks training we had an average of 89% progression in our passing skills,” says SADRU Head Coach, Danie Engelbrecht. “Looking at right and left hand passes, we are so proud to say that we had an average increase of over 100%.”

Crookes then further tested the Programme on 500 players at St David’s Marist, De La Salle Holy Cross College, Christian Brothers’ College (CBC), as well as other schools in JHB. The top result received was from CBC who claimed that it increased their winning rate by 400% as compared to the previous year.

Finally, Golden Lions Currie Cup player, Selom Gavor, was put through his ten minutes a day. He increased his passing and catching abilities by 100% in four weeks and while he was on the Programme, he scored the first two tries of his Currie Cup career and set up the try of the season for Currie Cup 2016.

ShadowBall’s Pass Booster Programme had proved itself to be an outstanding success. Whereas in a standard training session, players practice between 30 and 60 passes in an hour, ShadowBall enables 300 passes and catches in as little ten minutes, and when used by coaches exactly as structured, it creates an enormous improvement in both technique and passing abilities.

Structured for use as an individual or a team, a single player can purchase one ball with the programme or coaches can buy a team pack with 11 or 22 balls and the drills. The 22 ball pack lets the coach train the whole team and pump up the confidence and winning rate.

This year, office solutions partner, Nashua, sponsored ShadowBall and together they formed the Nashua Rugby Skills Project (NRSP) which was rolled out to 72 schools across Southern Africa. The NRSP allowed the Pass Booster Programme to be implemented on a massive scale with 1,350 players being trained and tested on round one.

When re-testing those same players six weeks later, the average team increase was 50% higher and the maximum increase of the teams involved was 114%. Several of the most improved players were over 100%. Two of the schools involved, Hoerskool Hendriena Combined and Rob Ferreira High School, commented that they made it through to the finals of their respective leagues thanks to the Programme.

With innovation at its core, ShadowBall has also created the Nashua Rugby Skills Project VR App which players can use with Google Cardboard to practise the drills. It is the world’s first virtual reality training app. The team has also created the Teambuilder App which makes the programme available to all users who buy the ball on Android or Apple.

“ShadowBall’s one-handed push pass can fix a poor left hand spin passing technique with just ten minutes a day,” concludes Crookes.  “Our ShadowBall Academy brings immense rugby training experience to coaches and players. The Pass Booster Programme will give teams superior skills and a winning edge. The facts speak for themselves.”