We’ve just spent a few hours at the local rugby club watching an Under-11 tournament with about 8 teams competing for a trophy. I thought it would be good for the kids to see some real junior matches as they have both signed up the rugby club and start training next week.
Some of the matches were really tough especially the first match we saw between Ripon and Harrogate. Now there has always been a rivallry between the two towns politically, but this has seeped down into many other things including it seems the junior rugby team too. I was quite surprised, and a little bit shocked by the level of hard tackles in this match of 10 year olds. There were plenty of injuries with some kids having to be carried off the pitch in tears. It certainly made Miles and Ethan think about what they are getting themselves into and Ethan, who is 9 started to get quite nervous about matches.
But what made me feel quite intimidated, and the kids did too as we stood at the touch line watching, was the pressure being put on the team players by the pitch side parents. Not only were the coaches shouting at the team to get across the tactics (which you expect) but the parents were all adding their thoughts too. Shouts of “break them in two”, “get in there”, “tackle hard” were all coming from both the dads and the mums. I can only think that this makes the junior team more fired up and in turn more agressive to the point where the ref had to give both teams a calm down talk as it was getting out of hand.
Of course you want your kids team to win but I just don’t think they need the sort of pressure that the parents bring to the touchline. Each parent is trying to coach their kid and you can see if something goes wrong they feel they have failed. Do matches really need to be this competitive at such a young age, or should it be more about learning the skills and rules rather than injuring the opposition.
I did wonder if there is a different level of coaching in schools as there is as part of a local team. Personally I would prefer my kids to enjoy their sport, but as a priority be fit and well to study at school the following week, whereas perhaps club teams are just all about the win and aren’t thinking about the education side of things which is a top priority at that age. Lets hope that all the kids that took a knock today are all ok and that there were no serious injuries.