Friday, 12 April 2019

Youth Rugby - I'll have a Half...

While we're on the subject of youth rugby, I see that the currently voluntary "Half Game Rule" - whereby all age grade players (aged 6-18) in a match day squad get to play at least half a game - will become a regulation from next season.

This follows research by the University of Essex which concluded unsurprisingly that players who regularly play half a game or more report higher enjoyment, self-esteem and rugby playing competence.

Which is all very well until you are dealing with ultra-competitive 15/16 year olds and above.

At a recent safeguarding seminar we were told that winning wasn't very important to kids and that fun and participation were the key drivers. That may be true of 6 year olds, but from experience of coaching from ages 13 to 16, the desire for victory amongst the boys grows stronger year on year.

In our current Under 16 team - which features a maximum of 22 boys of mixed ability - we do our very best to implement the Half Game Rule by using regular rolling replacements. Sometimes, however, in a tight league or cup game, for instance, it is just not possible - not unless we're willing to incur the wrath of some very stroppy teenagers questioning why we have lost them the game.

A great example of this was a cup game played a few weeks ago. At half time we were two tries down, whereupon the opposition coach brought on six replacements. Ten minutes later, after we had scored two tries ourselves, those replacements were suddenly withdrawn and the original players restored to the fray. Naughty, but understandable given that his team wanted to win an important game.

And then, of course, there is the question of which boys actually deserve to play. Is it fair, for instance, for a player who barely ever shows up at training to turn up to a match and be guaranteed a half at the expense of someone who trains diligently every week?

As a concept the Half Game Rule is fine - as coaches we all want to give our players as much time on the field as we can to help develop their skills and encourage their enjoyment of rugby.

For it to be compulsory, though, is possibly a step too far. How on earth would it be policed, for instance, and how would sanctions be applied?

And has anyone considered the obvious unintended consequence that unscrupulous clubs and coaches will simply select smaller match squads for key matches to ensure that their weaker players are not involved?

1 comment:

Rick said...

Sometimes I wonder if the boys up top spend all day thinking of ideas and the moment someone comes up with something that even sounds like an implementable concept, they just all congratulate each other and send it out without thought. Anything that would at least give them the appearance of doing something useful. This clearly has far more negative consequences than positive, no matter how good the intention is. If anything, rolling subs would be better than this, but I guess it's up to the teams to decide (unless the other team's coach decides to complain, or an angry, over-protective parent for that matter). It's not like the unions gonna send out enforcers everywhere to watch every single schoolboy rugby match, but who knows.