Is there still a place for rugby union on the school curriculum?
As an RFU level two coach working at a prep school in Twickenham, I would seem oddly placed to present an argument against rugby union’s inclusion in school sport.
However, my pedagogy has been formed mainly within the state school system and I think it’s time to move away from the traditional inclusion of rugby as a ‘boy’s winter sport’.
Given that less than 2% of the active population play rugby union from the age of 14+, the statistics suggest that young people grow disenfranchised with rugby before key stage four.
This is hardly surprising considering the bleak British winters, the hard hits in the tackle and the physical contact in the scrums, rucks and mauls.
All this, and the obvious physical advantages enjoyed by the boys who have hit their growth spurts earlier, makes me think state schools should start to create space in their summer timetables for tag- or touch-rugby in key stage three.
The benefits to the introduction of tag- or touch- are massive:
- Remove the fear-factor associated with contact and tackling and the introverts will flourish. The advantage no longer lies with the bigger, harder boys.
- Teachers can focus on skill development; focusing on passing and handling, agility and quickness. Perfecting the basics required for heads-up, offensive rugby.
- Educate every student to have speed in their hands, and to not rely on their bulk; by the time they reach colts rugby, their peers will have caught up with them. Size will no longer be an advantage.
- The students need not fear the elements; the sunshine and hard grounds are perfect for active, taxing rugby sessions. This will enable students to concentrate on their skill development above the circulation flowing to their finger tips.
- Introducing an invasion sport in to the summer timetable keeps students active year-round, promoting longer periods of activity throughout the curriculum, and moves away from sedentary striking and fielding games and athletics.
All aspects of rugby union should be based around the core values of the RFU, and what better way to encourage teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship then by leveling the playing field.
Removing the contact element that affords the bigger boys an advantage, creating an enjoyable learning environment in the summer months and focusing on improving the skill levels of the students will allow for a greater amount of students to access and enjoy rugby union at key stage four or outside the school curriculum.