Where did the summer go? it was amazing of many while it lasted but September is here and the start of the new rugby season. When one door closes another one opens.
Not only are many amateur and grassroots rugby clubs starting their league seasons across the UK this weekend (some may have started North of the border) but it is likely to be the first or second week back for many of the minis and juniors that are the foundation and future of the game. It’s great to see so many kids swarming the playing fields of clubs each Sunday and something, as adults, we no doubt look forward to seeing each weekend. I know I can’t wait to sit down with a coffee on Sunday morning to watch the U9’s at my local club. Our house will be all down there to cheer Oscar on come 9.45am!
I’ve watched school rugby and I’ve also been along to training sessions, tournaments and matches and it’s great to see so many supportive parents. There are always one or two though that leave me amazed. Some of the comments to referees (who are more than likely giving up their spare time to act as a volunteer) are incredibly harsh and uncalled for while swearing and shouting are common place. I’ve set out a few thoughts on what I think should be the focus for parents and supporters of mini and junior rugby as the new season arrives.
Try to avoid negativity. Encourage and support the kids playing, they are out there to enjoy themselves and play a game that will give them a huge amount. Don’t live your ‘rugby life’ through them, they will make mistakes but that is part of learning and development. By making the mistakes and having them explained in a constructive way they will learn far more than being shouted at and berated from the touchline. That’s doing nothing for anyone. All that does is put them off and turn them away from rugby, maybe even sport entirely. I can remember the boys that I used to have in my team when I played mini and junior rugby that got hammered for their errors, that has stuck in my mind since. My parents did a fantastic job for me, they were brilliant when taking me along to my training and games, not only did I learn a massive amount from my Dad when talking and listening to him on journeys to and from clubs but they were always very supportive. It makes a big difference on a child’s perspective on sport and rugby.
We all have thoughts and opinions on how things could have been done better in training and games but no matter what you would have done, keep it to yourself until the right time. I try to watch with a completely open mind and back the decisions that kids make on a Sunday, they are learning and I don’t want to influence them or make them feel like they should have done something differently. The coaches are there for that and do a great job. They are the ones who have laced the boots up, not me! You may feel that some coaches can do things in another way which would perhaps work better but from your vantage point on the touchline with your coffee and your bacon roll, you should just support and respect those that have given up their valuable time to put a huge amount into the kids on a Sunday for the next 7 or 8 months. It’s a massive commitment and they need as much praise as possible. If you feel that strongly about something, get the tracksuit and boots on with the kids and make a difference.
Behaviour on the touchline is no doubt better in rugby than some other sports but it’s still sometimes mind bogglingly OTT! We all have a passion for the game but firstly, don’t embarrass your child by shouting and hurling abuse at the referee, they know far more than us all about the game. I understand having passion but it’s needs to be kept in check. We are playing a game that we love and it’s just that, a game. We do it and watch it for enjoyment, so if you aren't enjoying it, go and sit in the car and come out when it’s all over. Those that don’t ruin it for so many others and will no doubt be missing on some of the thoughts I’ve made above. Don’t get angry and emotional, be as constructive as you can as it’s better for everyone, including your heart rate!
I can’t wait for Sunday. I love the buzz in the build up to mini rugby and seeing the boys and girls in the U9’s run around like lunatics, scoring tries and making tackles. It should be a brilliant family morning and I know the majority reading this will have all of the points I’ve made above at ihefront of their minds when they see the examples I am talking about. Let’s try and make the touchline a better place for everyone involved in the game though. It makes a big difference and most importantly, to the kids.