Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Friday, May 06, 2011

U13s: It's all about numbers... and money

When you start getting phone calls from parents from outside Hertfordshire that you have never met because they (and their daughters) are so desperate and upset about a new initiative, and the unhelpful (or worse) responses from RFUW, that they have no-one else to turn to you know that something is seriously amiss. And you start to wonder why the heck any sports organisation that cares for its sport should keep driving forward in the teeth of so much uproar.

And then you hear that similar things are planned for boys too and you really wonder what on earth is going on - what has caused such a crisis of confidence in a sport.

And then you learn about national funding for sport, and how it has been cut, and the requirements that Sport England have now laid down for sports to continue to receive funding. And about how this is dependent on increasing the numbers of children playing a sport.

Numbers. Its all about numbers. How can you increase numbers - fast and significantly. Answer - get more schools playing. One year group in one new school taking up a sport can give you over 100 "new" players in one go - much more than any club initiative could manage. The fact that 95% (minimum) of these children will never play the sport outside their schools is irrelevant - the "number" of  "players" goes up, and that is all that matters.

Obviously the barrier rugby faces is that it is a complex contact sport with an undeserved reputation for being dangerous, that cannot be properly taught by teachers with little or no knowledge about the game in a few PE lessons - so the answer is to come up with a new, watered down, game that you can call "rugby", but with all the "difficult" bits removed. So - no tackling, no mauls, no rucks, no line-outs, no opposed scrums, no kicking. "Pretend Rugby" might be a good description.

However, it looks like rugby, so we can call it "rugby", so we can say all these children are now playing "rugby", so can we have the money now, Sport England?

The problem is that this can only be done if you sacrifice all those girls (and, shortly, boys) who have learnt the "real" game in mini rugby - but (reading various responses) that is a sacrifice that Twickenham have decided is acceptable, because the loss of a hundred or so mini players nationwide will be balanced by the extra thousands of "new players" in schools.

Trouble is that the players that are being lost - sacrificed - are real players. Players with dedication and years of experience. Players around whom teams and clubs are built. Players who will (or would have) been the heart of county, regional and - in around 10 years time - national squads. Future England players.

They are being thrown away in favour of notional, theoretical, temporary, players playing only because their PE department sets up teams. Players who will - in the vast majority of cases - only play because they are told to and who will stop playing as soon as their school stops pushing them. The vast majority will not carry on playing outside school - not least because they will find that "real" rugby is a very different game from "pretend" rugby.

That is assuming there is anywhere outside their school they can play because this will kill junior girls' club rugby stone dead. Boys club rugby can survive on slightly reduced numbers as a heck of a lot of boys play, but girls' club rugby survives on a knife edge at the best of time - losing half a dozen (or even less in many cases) girls would make most club teams non-viable - and this initiative will take at least that number away.

And in the long term? Well, in a nutshell, wave goodbye to England ever winning a World Cup again.

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