It Starts with a Handshake

April 25, 2017

The young rugby player is encouraged to step forward. He fiddles with the tag-belt as his oversized shorts struggle to cling to his waist. Muddy and exhausted but with a look of joy on his face, he looks to his dad for encouragement; his dad nods and prompts him forward…this is where the tradition begins of a handshake with the opposition.

Mini rugby is where the foundations of a love for playing rugby are built. This is where, from a young age, respect is taught to our children; respect not just for the opposition (regardless of a match result) but respect for the game, the traditions it holds, as well as a respect for the volunteers who make mini rugby happen every Sunday morning during the season.

The core values of Rugby:

  • Teamwork
  • Respect
  • Enjoyment
  • Discipline
  • Sportsmanship

These are invaluable in what they teach our children as they grow up and can easily be transferred into social and work environments, and I’m a firm believer that coachable children become employable adults. The values are the foundations for so many aspects of their lives.

Any decent rugby club, worth its salt, will adhere to the unions’ rules, and ensure all volunteers maintain those values that teach our children to respect the opposition, thrive on teamwork, ensure coaching sessions and games create enjoyment and enforce the discipline that makes rugby the game it is. Encouraging sportsmanship whenever possible is also essential.

Having managed a mini rugby team for some years, I’ve witnessed the good and the bad, sometimes from players, but also sadly from parents.

On the whole, I have to say, the majority of games, festivals and friendlies I’ve attended have been enjoyable events, and it was good to see that the core values were being upheld, and behaviour generally good.

Sadly, there have been isolated incidents, where good behaviour was lacking, resulting in a fairly dejected drive home on a Sunday afternoon.

As I said earlier, the discipline taught on and off the pitch is invaluable. A strict coach will ask his team to come to training with clean boots...he doesn’t ask because he wants everyone to have clean boots for training only to get them muddy within seconds, he asks because he wants to see who'll have the discipline to sit and clean them, and do as he has asked.

It tells them a lot about each individual player's character.

The softly, softly approach is always a subject to spark keyboard debates. What are we teaching our children, when we constantly jump to their defence, like when we shout at the ref during a game, because we thought his decision was “unfair…’

Life can be tough, decisions may not always go in our favour, so we must let our children learn that sometimes they will get the short straw. Respect the ref’s ruling and move on.

So fast forward to the senior game, either social or professional, and those lessons are priceless. What we learn on the pitch from those early days of mini-rugby, stay with us in later years, and help shape who we are, what we want, how we get it, and how we deal with others, whether our teammates, friends or work colleagues.

Whether you're a Saturday social rugby enthusiast, or a hardcore 1st XV player for a higher level league, what we learn on the pitch on those Sunday mornings as a kid will see us good throughout life.

As once quoted by Winston Churchill, “Rugby is a Hooligans game, played by Gentlemen” – enough said.

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