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Back You are here: Home Sports Rugby Are Skewed Priorities Rife in School Sport?
Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:00

Are Skewed Priorities Rife in School Sport?


 I am playing devil's advocate here, but it is a legitimate concern I have on behalf of those who are not particularly interested in excellence in school sport but rather just participation for the pure enjoyment of the exercise.


12111This year I  attending a a grade 3 rugby festival and what a pleasure it was to see boys playing purely for the enjoyment of it, the camaraderie and mixing with boys from other schools.

Winning or losing was a minor issue - it was the fun that the boys had as their focus - albeit subconsciously.

Where does it all go wrong? Now don't get me wrong - I absolutely love school sport - I watch it, ponder over it, love the rankings, love the Affies matches, the Rondebosch hockey team, the schools’ T20 cricket on television.

BUT, my problem and my conscience lies with those parents and those boys who don't see winning as the be-all and end-all of sport, but rather see it as a fun form of leisure time of recreation.

What about those parents and boys who couldn't give a continental whether the first team win or not - those folks who are more interested in drama, chess, rock climbing, debating et al.

Why is it that some schools pay MASSIVE salaries to first XV coaches? Do they do the same for the chess coach? Of course not.

Rugby has been prostituted from a wonderful game into a callous marketing tool for schools - it is disgusting. Why is it some boys only play rugby the whole year, nothing else? Only 0,1 % will become professionals of any sort. What happened to the days when rugger players played water polo/swimming or cricket in the first school term? Rugby/hockey was only second term and a bit of third term in KZN. Athletics was the major portion of third term; cricket and aquatics reigned supreme in the fourth term.

It's great that football is played in schools now - long overdue - but that also seem to be fast on its way to a full year – soccer-only kids.

And who pays for these super-heroes, wildly expensive rugby coaches who are meant to solve a first team's awkward number of losses? Is it the "Old Boys" funds, or is it school fees of parents and kids who couldn't care less about first team results - but in fact their inflated school fees are paying for OTHER parents and kids - a very small number - to have the services of an overrated professional rugby coach.

And that coach is only interested in the first team results. He might pay lip service to coaching the coaches but a brief look at U14 and U15 plus U16 rugby shows that very few coaches at that level have a clue about embedding the basics - passing, catching, kicking out of hand and at posts etc into their boys. It is all about the glamorous "Game Plan" that most kids have great difficulty in understanding - you can see it on the field when coaches at this level scream at the kids and they look back, totally bewildered.

I grew up, and played, and literally worshipped school sport and its heroes - but it was amateur sport in the purest sense – and boys continued playing after school at clubs.

Given the obsession with winning at schoolboy level and the pressure put on young men, is it any wonder there is now a massive dropout - a culling - of numbers at club level when boys leave school?

Most of them want nothing more to do with the yoke of expectation cast around their necks; the expectation of parents and coaches who want the win so that they can bask in the reflected glory of unwilling participants in what is the adults' ego trip.

Anyone for social tennis, squash or golf?

Most of these kids can't wait to leave school and be rid of unwelcome expectations.

Told you I was playing devil's advocate. Would love to hear what others think.