Sunday, 16 February 2014

Win some, lose some

Cute Cartoon Rugby or Rugger Player in Blue Kit Cut Outs

Now that we're on a Six Nations mini-break perhaps we can, at least temporarily, put tribalism to one side and consider the changes, widely reported in recent weeks, being implemented in kids’ rugby by Surrey RFU.

Such changes, we are told, will now include tournaments with no overall winner being declared and will also feature "mixed ability" teams which must be weakened if winning too easily.

Predictably enough such moves have caused outrage in Daily Mail reading middle-England, with the likes of Esher RFC, for instance, threatening to boycott future tournaments. Political correctness gone mad and all that.

It hardly helps matters that RFU Development Director Steve Grainger justifies the changes by use of gobbledegook such as “presenting a format that suits" and “delivering to our customers.” At its core, however, the thinking behind such change is not as barking as it first appears..

Let’s face it, if you’re a small child being asked to tackle a bunch of big-boned early developers who just steam-roller over the top of you on a freezing Sunday morning somewhere in deepest Surrey, what exactly are you getting out of the game? Come to think of it, what are the bigger kids learning if they’re finding it all so easy?

However, whilst the intentions behind the changes are fundamentally sound, the answer, clearly, is not to attempt to remove competition from the equation. Anyone who has kids who play sport will know that they play it to win. Give a bunch of kids a ball  and ask them to make up some rules and they won't devise a game which doesn't involve keeping the score, so not to declare a winner is simply nonsensical. After all, whether you’re told the score or not, you know when you’ve just suffered a drubbing and no amount of “the score doesn’t matter” is going to make you feel any better. More importantly, learning how to win and lose with a modicum of good grace is an important lesson in life.

If enjoyment is the goal, far better that rugby continues to be promoted as a game for all shapes and sizes by perhaps limiting full contact until kids are older, thus encouraging the development of skills and spacial awareness rather than just rewarding brute force and good genetics. And surely it cannot be beyond the wit of the powers that be to ensure that tournaments are graded so that teams are only pitted against other teams of similar ability?


Von said...

I'm told that in New Zealand, where many of the Polynesian kids are shaving at age 8 and are double the size of their pakeha cousins, they use weight categories instead of age groups up to about age 16 I think it is.

We had a "non-competitive" sports day at my school, (arguably quite "progressive" considering this was over 20 years ago). It was a shambles. As you allude to above, it was the kids that boycotted the thing. I was one of very few people out of my circle who actually bothered to take part - I did quite well too, I think, didn't exactly win anything but I had the warm glow of having taken part, which is of course the important thing...

Andrew Barton said...

Im a rugby coach here in france for a team of under 13's.

Here things are very different to the UK. They play full contact from under 7 but not competative scrums until under 19.

However, in competitions or tournements at all age groups upto and including under 15, the rule is that once one side gets more than 5 tries, the game is stopped and the result is recorded. Then the loosing team coach is offered to mix the teams up and continue playing for the rest of the match just for fun and the benefit maybe of the weaker teams players playing with the stronger teams players.

Most times my team has gone 5 up, the other coach is happy to mix up the teams. Occasionally the coach says no and we stop there or he says no and wants to continue as is. Either way the original 5-X result stands.

As for size, children grow at different rates. Its frightening. Our smallest under 13 is about 1m 20 and weighs 28 kg, our largest is 1m 78 and weighs 80kg! With the right technique, our smallest can and often does bring down our biggest.

Von said...

@Andrew Barton - sounds like an unbelievably sensible approach.

Andrew Barton said...

Trust me Von, that makes a change. In almost every other aspect the FFR are a right bunch of w@nk3rs. Witness there First 15 selection policy and tactics!