I want to play cricket on the green
Ride my bike across the stream
Cut myself and see my blood
I want to come home all covered in mud
The Who, I'm a Boy
Schoolboy rugby appeals to this blog's prejudices, but the open letter from doctors and other health experts should not be dismissed:
The majority of all injuries occur during contact or collision, such as the tackle and the scrum.
These injuries which include fractures, ligamentous tears, dislocated shoulders, spinal injuries and head injuries can have short-term, life-long, and life-ending consequences for children."My impression is that rugby clubs are good at introducing children to the game gradually, whereas one often sees a pack of small boys chasing the ball across a muddy soccer field that is far to big for them.
But an article by Anna Maxted in yesterday's telegraph skilfully brought out the dilemma for rugby parents:
My 13-year-old staggers home pink-cheeked and mud-splattered after rugby practice. I order him up for a bath, and stuff his sodden kit into the wash.
This ritual gives me a similar feeling to singing 'Lavender’s Blue' to him as a baby. I’m part of a great tradition, upholding the basic tenets of parental duty and care, giving him a textbook happy, healthy childhood.
But later that night he complains he can’t sleep: he hurt his neck during the game.At the heart of this debate, I suspect, lies just not a dilemma for parents but one for rugby union itself. What is the game meant to be like?
Robert Kitson wrote a very good article on the subject earlier this year:
What sort of attacking spectacle are we encouraging if up-and-coming young fly-halves and centres keep getting man and ball simultaneously and barely have time to catch the ball, never mind pass or run? When youth teams are kicking penalties as a first resort rather than being encouraged to move the ball?Boxing used to be taught in state schools, but disappeared in the 1960s after a campaign led by Dr Edith Summerskill.
If rugby union as we know it today does not want to go the same way, it needs to decide what kind of game it aspires to be.