Monday, November 17, 2008

Play on

Took the boys to rugby training this weekend. We have only been once before a few weeks ago when my five-year-old had a go but my seven-year-old refused. That evening, my five-year-old came down with chicken pox so I was slightly leery about turning up again in case he had infected all of his playmates but I decided to brave it anyway. Managed to persuade both of them onto the pitch this time though my seven-year-old looked highly sceptical throughout. As soon as it was over, he came off and said: "I'm never doing that again. Ever." The thing is, up here, rugby seems to be one of the key ways the boys make those friends which last a lifetime. I do not blame my seven-year-old. He is probably wired like his mother. Admittedly, I never played rugby but the only time I went on a hockey field, I got ordered off it as a danger to myself and everybody else. At netball, I would actively avoid the ball. And, I can still remember what it is to try and hit a rounders ball while your team looks on resigned to the fact it is never going to happen.

My five-year-old is a different fish however. He managed to score four tries and whipped off a fair number of tags.( Below the age of seven, it is non-contact. Instead of ploughing each other into the ground, they make do with ripping off each other's plastic tags that hang from a belt around their waist.) At one point, I even saw my five-year-old hunker down with his hands on his knees, leaning over his body, for all the world as if he was about to do a haka. Sheer, muddy instinct. I talked to a father at the sidelines about why he thought rugby was such a good idea - apparently, it teaches boys sportsmanship. Duly at the end of the match, the teams cheered each other's efforts and shook hands. Average age - six. It is also, I suspect, about teaching boys to be men. Not just any sort of man. But the sort who will take a knock and carry on without complaint. Every now and then, one or other boy would take such a bump, they would spill a tear, a coach would have a quick look, perhaps wipe the tears away and play would continue. Made you proud to be British.


Gone said...

"up here Rugby seems to be one of the key ways boys make those friends that last a lifetime"

I find it strange that you dont think that that's a throroughly British phenomenen, I can't imagine that it is any different in Bath, Gloucester or Wasps (there is a place in London called Wasps isn't there?)

Botogol said...

How were you dressed? :-)

Iota said...

Better than American football, which seems to stop every time it gets going. Yes, rugby is definitely a man thing.

Pam said...

Do your boys like football? At least then the youngest might not end up with the smashed nose and cauliflower ears of a rugby player.
I'm glad you're "back". I missed you those couple of weeks you didn't write.

Z said...

Yes, but then they develop huge bulging muscles and appetites to match and in their 40s they start putting on weight and their knees go. It's a recipe for an unhealthy middle age. The only ex-rugby players I know to whom that doesn't apply are farmers, who work their arses off all day and don't have a chance to get fat.

netaddict said...

If Strictly Come Dancing is anything to go by rugby players seem to make good dancers too.

Carah Boden said...

Bring on the sport I say! It was the government's biggest mistake to downgrade it on the school curriculum. It may sound like old hat, but it teaches you so many skills for life - the benefits of working as a team rather than just as an individual, supporting eachother's strengths and weaknesses etc etc etc. And God knows, our selfish self-centred society needs that at the moment. And apart from that it gets out a load of aggression which otherwise gets pent up in the classroom. I read a great article a year of so back about a school in the East End of London which had been turned around by bringing sport back into the timetable. It's not rocket science, really, is it?

Did you know Donald Macleod, by the way, in your days in education journalism? (His brother, Angus, is a really good friend of ours). I think I sent you press releases in the past, too, when I did PR for World Challenge Expeditions (not that I'd expect you to remember, I hasten to add!).

♥ Braja said...

The haka made me laugh. I remember watching a program on Channel 4 years ago when in London about the British / NZ/Aussie sides, and how some considered the NZ haka "threatening." Had to laugh. It's the most entertaining part, you ask me :)

Thumper said...

Hmm. You know best. I played Rugby through highschool (compulsory in P.E). Touch Rugby is fine. But Tackle anytime before 16 shouldn't be encouraged unless you trust the umpires with your children's life. In Australia there was a rash of spinal and neck injuries occuring every year because of collapsed scrums in schoolboy rugby. (google rugby and school and neck injury) and see what comes up.

Don't want to cause alarm or be a wowser, but it is something to mindful of.

you can have a look at:

Moral of the story: as soon as it becomes tackle, the umpires should be trained in managing scrums so they don't collapse.

Waffle said...

Yes, that was me too, cowering on the outfield at hockey avoiding the ball, fearing the magnetic pull my head seemed to exercise on the netball, flailing wildly at the apparently microscopic rounders ball, etc etc..
Sadly eldest son has inherited my genes. Younger son, hmm, jury is out. I am thinking, physical activity yes, team sports,no.

Please tell me there are other ways to make lasting friendships? Er, chess club?!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

you forgot another plus point; they often go on to university and become thoroughly sexy, fairly intelligent, well-muscled, amusing men who can drink their (substantial) body weight in beer.



Stinking Billy said...

Judith, I could read you all day on any subject under the sun.

SaraJ said...

My son hasn't inherited my lack of sporting skills either - luckily for him. I was always the last one to be chosen for a team as I was useless pretty much universally! My son has found that he is quite good at rugby - especially now that he plays contact (U11s) and it isn't all just about who can run fastest. In spite of the mud - which can be absolutley awful - it is a great game which seems to help the boys (and some girls) develop a competive spirit, represent a team, make new friends, and channel any agression in the right direction. I have been converted and can usually be found on a Sunday morning cheering my son on.
(Let me know if you want to see how bad the mud can get when your boys get a bit bigger - an industrial washing machine may become top of your Christmas list!)

Anonymous said...

Don't envy you standing out on these cold days in the north. Good on the boys though.

CJ xx

Z said...

I'm afraid that the only lessons team games taught me at school, Her on the Hill, were negative ones.

The two best players were made team captains and took it in turns to choose the rest of us. For anyone small, large, clumsy or generally unsporty, it was humiliating, waiting in the ever-decreasing group, hoping only not to be picked last.

After that, one spent most of the time scuttling back and forth, trying to look as if you were keen but not actually to get possession of the ball, because then you would get tackled or outmanoeuvred or, even worse, get a shot at goal which you invariably missed, and then were groaned at by the rest of the team.

It was the only lesson I ever had where favouritism was actively encouraged in the teachers, where the lesser-able pupils were allowed to be sneered at and where most of the coaching was given to the ones with most natural ability.

I have not a thing against sport, school games or vigorous activity, but it's team games at school that has done most to put so many adults off taking any activity at all.

And I apologise for the length of this comment!

occasional northerner said...

It is a great game - sportsmanship is the least of what it teaches and there is no doubt that it creates friendships for life. I played (pretty averagely) from the age of 10 to 23 to the exclusion of everything else (and watched it every week-end thereafter until my daughter was born) - it was something of an obesssion at my school, there being nothing much else to do.