When I was in my mid-teens I played Rugby, both at school and for my local youth team. Rugby was one of the things that I truly had in common with my Dad; we used to watch the Five Nations and International matches on TV and with my Mum having Welsh heritage, it was alway sure to be a fun time when certain fixtures in the year came around.
I was never a very sporty kid. I much preferred to watch TV over getting outside to kick a ball about, but I seemed to have a natural ability at being able to get hit by other kids and getting up and keep going. Rugby was a sport that wasn’t super fast like Football is and it’s not about total endurance like Athletics was. It is a quick game but there was a chance to catch your breath whilst setting up for the next play.
When playing at school, people found it harder to tackle me as I was a big kid and could keep running with someone hanging on to my legs. When playing for the local youth team it was a different story. At school it was compulsory to play, when you went to play on a Sunday Morning, you wanted to be there and the ability level kind of shot up pretty fast. Still I played in the Scrum at the Hooker position and I think I did rather well for myself. I did my best and I had fun. One of the main things playing Rugby as a youth taught me was respect for the rules and to give it your all.
In hindsight (which is a wonderful thing as someone approaching the start of Middle Age), I wasn’t a great player and I was probably tolerated more than excelled.
So when I read the news that Doctors want to ban the Tackle from the school game (BBC, Guardian (Readers opinions), The Telegraph (a rather one-sided view)) , I see the last vestiges of sanity being kicked well wide of the uprights. What will be next on the chopping block?
Will it soon be to dangerous for kids to walk down the road in fear of tripping over their shoelaces?
Will they no longer be able to go and play unsupervised in the dreaded thought of someone saying something that may hurt someones feelings?
Yes, these examples are extreme and are grotesque exaggerations of a situation that would probably never happen.
I would proffer to you that Rugby has been around (according to Wikipedia) since the early 19th Century and the first set of rules to the game established by pupils at Rugby School in 1845 (yeah.. I said that.. KIDS made up the original rules). So in the 170+ years that the game played with enforceable rules, it’s only in the last few years that people have suddenly become worried about Kids playing Rugby in schools?
Did we suddenly start to care about the children more in the 21st Century? Did someone find a crucial piece of evidence that suggests that Kids playing Rugby are getting hurt more NOW with all the safeguards that are in place than there was 25 years ago when I was playing in all weathers without the correct equipment? I tell you I saw kids playing the game in some shocking footwear back then.. they didn’t seem to get hurt anymore than anyone else. Maybe we were just made of sterner stuff back then, or maybe we didn’t complain as much… or maybe, just maybe there was absolutely nothing wrong with what was going on in Physical Education back then. Trust me, there were kids who didn’t want to play back then just as I imagine there are now, but that lack of spirit to play the game didn’t stop them from getting stuck in and getting the exercise the school were offering.
Take it from personal experience if dangerous play was happening the teachers soon rooted that crap out and made sure it wasn’t carried forward to the next class (having to run laps of the Rugby, Hockey and Football pitches soon knocked any kind of unsportsmanlike conduct out of you).
In today’s environment when kids are urged to get out and exercise more and not sit in and have their faces stuck in a digital device, why are we taking one of the greatest sports away from them. When I refer to it as “one of the greatest”, I certainly don’t think it has sporting merit over any other game, except maybe Darts and Tiddlywinks. Rugby teaches young people to have respect for the officials of the game. You very rarely see a bunch of Rugby players crowding a Ref to get them to change a decision made, what the ref said WENT. If you upset the referee, you had the opportunity to go sit in the sin-bin for a while or you got sent off back in my day.
Here is my solution, better coaching, better equipment and a FULL understanding of the rules and ways of the game. Get the kids to watch classic games and see how it’s played by professionals. Explain to them why something happens and the consequences of not following through with that action. How about instead of selling school playing fields, we invest in better stock for all kids to get out there and play the games THEY want to play.
This post has focused on Rugby, but if the officials get their way on this what comes next. Will they stop Basketball because short kids aren’t going to Slam Dunk 20 points each game? Will they stop the 1500 metres because Asthmatics have trouble running that far without having to stop every 250 metres? Will they ban Netball for fear of balls to the face?
See each of these scenarios are preposterous when you read them like this, but if you take the Tackle away from Rugby, you are left with a game with 30 kids running round with a funny shaped ball that huddle up every now and again.
Until next time…