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Should the Half Game Rule end at Under 15?

Posted Friday, 06 December 2019

No one would dispute the spirit of the RFU’s recently introduced rule requiring all members of a match day squad to participate in at least half of the available game time.  Those marginal players standing on winter touchlines hoping for a few minutes at the end of a match whose result is already decided was never an edifying picture.

For much of school rugby, this has made little difference, merely formalising existing good practice.  At the engagement levels of the game, the spirit of this rule is not new.  The changing landscape of school rugby – under unprecedented threat by a cocktail of factors led by safety concerns – has meant that retaining a critical mass of willing players is a priority for all schools at all levels.  There are fewer boys playing rugby in schools than at any stage in the last 100 years: the game needs all the support it can find.  Disengaging...

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The Resilience Dilemma

Posted Friday, 29 November 2019

Schools used to be inflexible places.  They knew what was good for pupils. Compulsion was everywhere.  Latin, Rugby, CCF, Cross country running, cold showers.

A combination of liberalism, market forces, educational enlightenment and social change put an end to all that.  The climate of modern schools places greater value on individual preference: they are customer-friendly and child focused.  Little is compulsory for very long, and – during the time that it is – the rough edges have been smoothed away.  Non-contact Rugby alternatives are available, cross country courses are shorter and kit is warmer and more comfortable.  Even the CCF has been re-packaged to accommodate the conscientious objector. Teachers are forbidden from shouting.  There is plenty of sugar on the compulsion pill.

There is a paradox that these forces have been accompanied by an educational trend...

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What Happened to the Honour of Selection?

Posted Friday, 22 November 2019

“The following have been selected to represent the School…”   These were the coveted words that brought pupils racing to the noticeboards, hoping to see their names listed.  To be one of the chosen few.  Upholding the school’s honour on the metaphorical battlefields against all rivals. 

There has been a subtle shift over the last decade amongst all but the youngest pupils.  The enthusiasm for selection is still in good health in pre-maturation sport, but is significantly eroded amongst adolescents.  Bestowing the honour of selection has been replaced in many schools with a hopeful request that pupils might agree to do the school a favour and take part.  Ideally, it would be the most athletic pupils.  However, when it comes down to it, any will do.  The focus on winning the game with a committed and carefully prepared team sometimes gives way to the hasty assembly of a team...

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When School Sport is Truly Amazing

Posted Thursday, 14 November 2019

Whatever the difficulties and frustrations of school sport in the twenty first century, one thing is for sure.  The shop window is in amazing condition.  The top level of games in schools has never been of a higher standard.  The time, effort and investment in developing the best players is more extensive than ever before in the history of school sport. 

The results are astonishing.  The best school games are of unprecedented quality.  Dedicated athletes are fitter, more skilful and better coached than ever:  resources are at an all-time high.    Much of the considerable investment in sport of recent years has benefited the leading players, especially of team games.  Specialist coaches - many without the distraction of any significant teaching role - fitness facilities, equipment and expertise, analysis software and nutrition:  all contribute to an unprecedented level of...

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The Endless Industry of Talent Development in Youth Sport

Posted Friday, 04 October 2019

The professionalisation of sport is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Although some sports have paid players for a long time, that was exactly what they did.  They paid them to play.  Preparation to perform was either absent or perfunctory.  Sports science hadn’t been invented. 

The drive for high performance is ultimately driven by the pecuniary benefits of success for both teams and individuals.  Vast infusions of money from television, national lottery and other sources have rewarded the best teams and players disproportionately.  Talent has been commoditised.  And its value therefore increased.

Heavily resourced clubs and programmes depend on a constant supply of new talent.  Competition to identify, attract and develop this is a recently emerged industry, especially in sports such as Rugby, Netball and Hockey.  The net is cast wide.  Games which previously condemned...

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When is it ok to Shout at the Referee?

Posted Friday, 27 September 2019

The new term is well underway.  The initial excitement has settled into a regular operation.  School teams have been selected, and have got a few games under their belt.  For some kids, the elation of initial selection has subsided into the smug complacency of a regular team place; others hang around the margins and hope for a chance of half a game as a substitute.  Still more have suffered the wounding humiliation of rejection and drifted off into other activities. 

The regular programme of matches ticks over week by week.  The predictable rhythm of practices, checking on fitness and availability, team sheets, match logistics and fixture day has been established.  In many schools, match day is the high point of the week.  An eagerly anticipated peak of the sports programme, relished by children and parents.  These are the games that fuel the proud boasts in Monday’s...

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