Schoolboy rugby in South Africa has lost the plot and Allan Miles believes everything is wrong with schoolboy rugby being determined by which schools have the biggest rugby budget.
The situation will only get worse now that all the elite schools feature so prominently on SuperSport’s investment into schools sports and, in particular, schoolboy rugby.
Miles, having been involved with rugby at high school level for the past 20 years, bemoaned how ‘money and a winning obsession’ are killing schoolboy rugby.
Miles referenced an interview with England coach Eddie Jones on the High Performance Podcast, where Jones says that ‘the problem with rugby coaching now (at schools) is that it is being taught by ex-players and professional coaches and not by teachers.’
Jones added that schoolboy rugby had lost its authenticity and ethos and that the elite schools teams were now rugby academies in the guise of a Schools 1st XV.
‘There is a huge misunderstanding of the actual role of coaching, especially at a schoolboy level. Teaching is a fundamental tenant of coaching. As a teacher you need to have the welfare of the kids in mind. ‘It’s a fundamental floor in education, kids need to be taught and don’t need to be coached at an early age,’ said Jones. ‘The connection that you need to make with a player is important. Teachers know how to make these connections. These connections can be lost when you start forcing schoolboys into a high performance environment.’
Miles, who was involved with school’s rugby in the Eastern Cape for two decades, concurred.
‘The fixed mind-set approach to the schoolboy game is our greatest limitation. This mind-set creates the perception that the only way a 1st XV can achieve results is to ‘buy’ players. The recent debacle of overage players being played in KZN proves this point. This has resulted in certain school’s no longer willing to play each other. The values that our schools were founded upon have been lost. I made a recent post on the Parent Trap where I referred to the ‘obsessed’ parent. Parents and supporters have truly become obsessed. No teacher/coach is ever good enough to coach their child. Schools are being forced to continually search for someone from the outside.’ wrote Miles.
‘Schools continue to disguise their bursary programs as giving a better opportunity to the underprivileged player. You only ever hear of their success stories. However, there are many boys who don’t ever succeed. If they don’t find a playing opportunity beyond school they end up in an even worse situation. My heart truly bleeds for these boys who literally have nothing after they have been spat out by the school system. The high performance model or approach that has been adopted by many schools often does not cater for them academically and it can end up having an adverse effect on their academic performance in the classroom.
‘You even hear of schools recommending that they repeat an academic year. This gives the player an extra year to play for their 1st XV. Some schools even use an extra enrichment year to recruit 1st XV players. Players are being treated like commodities and parents have begun trading their son’s to the highest bidder. Too many players are ending up in two or more high schools. It has really become a sad state of affairs. It is disheartening to witness the level that people are willing to go. Selling fake promises, luring kids to their schools. Realistically the chances of a player ever really making it are less than 2% according to studies.
‘Only, one in five players who play in the u13 Craven Week are selected five years later to play at the u18 Craven Week. With reference to playing U13 Craven Week, “the dropout rate from there on becomes even steeper, with only 0.02% (1 in 6 102 players) of players selected for the national u18 week going on to play at the highest level for the Springboks”. The chance of your son becoming a Springbok is slim. I hope that all parents read that again. In another frightening statistic, 95% of school leavers stop playing the game altogether.
‘Retired players are on the prowl desperately looking for positions in schools. It is sad to hear about what extent these guys are willing to go to get the top rugby job in a school. They are never around for very long and at the first opportunity will leave to pursue professional coaching careers (if they are lucky). This impacts heavily on the continuity within the schoolboy system. A successful environment cannot be created when there is a high turnover rate. This is not what should have become of the game which we so love and are passionate about. The great Doc Craven certainly would not be impressed with what has become of the game.’
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