There’s no denying that sport can be a positive tool that can be used as a catalyst to generate change, encourage positivity, endorse healthy living or simply promote fun. I wanted to express my opinions surrounding rugby's key values, after a brilliant piece written by Michelle Harvey, where she emphasised that it all starts with a handshake.
I feel it’s also important to instil that sport is about taking part. To be a winner within sport is a wonderful thing, however kids must first learn to love and cherish their sport, before viewing it simply as a journey in which their sole aim is to win.
One of the reasons I love rugby is because, not only does it encourage kids to get active and play sport but there are so many life lessons to learn whilst playing and having fun…
If sport was a highly respected teacher, rugby would be sitting right at the front of the class, showing off its chasm of knowledge surrounding inspiring kids.
Let me explain that metaphor...although there are many sports that endorse healthy living, not many have such a broad foundation of education. Let’s have a look at these key values and see where they can help support kids...parents are always seeking new teaching methods, what about rugby?
Yes, perhaps a little obvious but still vitally important. Whether it’s mini rugby, 10 a side, or 15s, rugby relies intrinsically on good communication and teamwork...whether you’re launching a slick attacking move, or seeking to steal ball at the breakdown, talking rationally amongst team-mates is key! Mini-games encouraging kids to interact with one another from an early age can really develop both their confidence, inter-personal skills and rugby ability.
With regards to the ‘R’ word, most sports should take a leaf out of rugby’s book, both on and off the pitch. Of course, every sport has its mavericks, however the way referees are treated; the way crowds interact; the way teams socialise after matches...it’s exemplary.
I remember playing school rugby as a kid...no back chat was ever given to the ref, simply a yes sir, and after the match we usually enjoyed a meal with the opposition. Teach kids these things young and they won’t forget them…
Perhaps this one slightly crosses over with respect, yet it’s still extremely important. It’s consistently stressed that every rugby player is required to stick to a strict code of conduct. Whether it’s a high tackle, or foul language, players will be called up for it no matter the level or age group of rugby. When it's taught from a young age, it’s clear to see that it trickles up as players progress through the game’s ranks...you only have to watch rugby on the tv to see how disciplined it is - apart from the odd outburst - but that’s the competitive nature of the sport.
Rugby isn’t really a game that you can play half heartedly and enjoy...especially in the cold winter months, when it’s pissing down with rain and your team’s trailing by 10.
95% of the time a rugby player will play with immense passion and pride for their club’s crest. It means at junior level rugby, children are encouraged to discover a real passion for a sport, and it’s from here that the will and desire to win is generated.
Suddenly the fun isn’t enough and a natural development occurs where you see kids becoming passionate about winning.
Perhaps more relevant when children discover how great the feeling is to win, and also how defeating it can feel to lose. I think a line from Rudyard Kipling's poem IF highlights this area perfectly.
If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same.
No matter the match result, win or lose, be gracious, thank your opposition and leave the pitch with your head held high.
The more kids that buy into the key values of rugby, the more success the home nations are going to have in the future.