Yorkshire Under 20s Development Squad 50 Leeds University 15Having photographed quite a number of rugby matches, warm-ups and coaching sessions, ickledot has come to realise just how important the huddle seems to be in the modern game. Seeing as we're in the season of goodwill (and also as a game I was due to photo this afternoon has been cancelled due to the snow and ice) I thought I'd write a few words about this relatively recent phenomenon. From the moment a player steps onto the pitch, until he or she steps off it again at the end of a match, it's likely they'll participate in a half dozen or more huddles:

  • whole team before the warm up,
  • with backs or forwards during the warm up,
  • at least one more before the end of the warm up,
  • whole team immediately before kick-off,
  • whole team before the second half
  • a final one post game, regardless of result.

Of course, what's actually said at each stage is known only to those within the group. The confidentiality, the circular inward facing shape and the literal joining together with arms linked across shoulders are all essential elements which aim to cement bonding and team spirit.

Although the first recorded huddle was over a century ago, in American football according to Wikipedia, it was not seen in modern sport until 2003, with the Indian cricket team. It was so noticeably successful in their World Cup campaign that its use quickly spread to other sports.

Interestingly, its effectiveness back in 1892 was in it enabling a captain or coach to speak and signal to fellow team members on the field of play, without the opposition seeing. Today, according to a small group I have asked on this matter, its universally seen as a way to 'rally the troops', or as one person said, "I think they're quite important, give a real sense of solidarity and when you're huddled up you know you're seconds away from war!" Can't put it better than that!

Photographically huddles are quite an effective way of setting the scene. This can be done with a close up, across the back of three or four sets of shoulders, as a shot which shows only the huddle itself, emphasising the unity, or perhaps a wider view with a stand or section of crowd in the background; quite a good way to illustrate the enormity of the challenge faced by this tiny band of brothers or sisters. Of course, if you can get a shot with a face or two visible, particularly if it's the person speaking, with victorious smile or grimace of defeat, all the better.

Here are a few more huddles - one of them from the hallowed inside! And another isn't actually rugby. Have a fantastic 2015!