It’s the taking part that counts. That used to be the great mantra of school sports at Britain’s old private schools. You don’t hear it so much in the fee paying sector these days. The focus today has dramatically shifted to the importance of winning at all costs. Where school sports were once run by academic staff, today they’re increasingly managed by ex-professionals, especially hired as directors of sports.
In rugby, in particular, success on the playing field is now seen as a potent marketing tool for impressing prospective parents. One rugby coach has revealed that whenever the 1st XV lose a Saturday fixture, the headmaster calls an urgent meeting to demand an explanation. There has also been a surge in schools offering bursaries or scholarships to talented rugby players – some even poach top players from rival schools with offers of fee discounts. And along with this professionalisation of school rugby comes an obsessional focus on year-round weight training to bulk up the players.
Now, following a recent influx of ex-pros into school coaching jobs, hockey and netball look set to follow suit. It may be the way to get results, but it isn’t really cricket. (Robin Hardman, The Spectator)
My take: My father played for the England international rugby side against France. One appearance only, but you can imagine the pressure on me, having a top-class player in my own Dad. But I was big and ran fast and did well at it in my turn – but thought it all ridiculously overblown, even in those Dark Ages. Keep fit, yes, and learn to work as part of a team, yes, but the emphasis on such games, especially, in England, rugby was, well, totally out of proportion. I was hailed at school for my sporting ability, but no one even commented, including the teachers, when I got into a good college of a good university (no names, no pack drill). As for the year-round weight training for teenagers, this sounds definitely dodgy, if not obscene. I have heard of kids taking drugs that bulk them up and help them run faster.
These adults have their priorities seriously messed up. I’m glad I don’t have teenage kids at schools such as described here. And where are the parents and what on earth are they thinking?