Guest columnist KAMVA SOMDYALA says professional coaches have a role to play in schools rugby.
I vividly recall seeing Grey College at the 2012 Kearsney Easter Festival and how their 1st XV resembled a professional team. They had branded kit with several sponsor logos, and assistant coaches walked along the touchline communicating via walkie-talkies.
The professionalism that Grey showed that day was indicative of how South African schools rugby had become semi-professional.
Oliver Keohane, in explaining why professional coaches should not be hired by schools, asks if schools that aim to be in the top five nationally should have to become rugby academies. This would mean recruiting players through scholarships and hiring professional coaches. It’s possible that this is where schools rugby is headed.
I differ in my understanding. A professional coach offers what a teacher would offer and way more in terms of understanding of rugby.
Keohane continues: ‘In my opinion, what makes schoolboy rugby so fantastic is how tradition and ethos driven it is’. He makes the point that tradition is set in by schoolmasters and cannot be done so by professional coaches. The two cannot, however, be treated as though they are mutually exclusive.
It is the boys who play for the jersey and the ones gone long who set the tradition for the jersey. With ever changing coaches at schools, it would be wrong to think a teacher/coach sets the tradition. A professional coach’s experience is invaluable to a school and if a school is willing and able to hire one, kudos to them. It does not necessarily turn a school into a rugby academy.
It may be unfortunate that a professional coach has to resort to coaching high schools, but if that’s the hand he’s been dealt and if schools want to snap him up, so be it.