OLLIE KEOHANE says the head coach of a school rugby team should always be a teacher at the school.
Schoolboy rugby, in recent years, has reached a new level of professionalism. Many schools are beginning to put in a big effort during the pre-season, making use of resources such as conditioning coaches, and even building school gyms. Consultants and specialists outside of the school are brought in to help the teams in certain areas and the boys are exposed to a high level of training, instilling a professional attitude in them.
Schools such as Paarl Boys’, and the giants of Durban, Glenwood High have been on incredible winning runs that have coincided with the introduction of professional coaches.
This begs the question, if schools who aim to be in the top five want ultimate success, should they be turning themselves into rugby academies? This means recruiting players through scholarships and hiring professional coaches. It’s possible that this is where schools rugby as a whole is headed.
But in my opinion, what makes schoolboy rugby so fantastic is how tradition and ethos driven it is. I attend the oldest school in South Africa (SACS High School) and from the days of mini rugby, the same values have been drilled into us: Never lose sight of why you play the game, play to win, but not at all costs, and maintain sportsmanship at all times.
These values, as obvious as they may seem, are a product of an environment created by schoolmasters and the schooling system. They put into practice discipline, respect and perspective.
I’m all for bringing in the help of specialists and for hard training. I know we benefited hugely from the help of scrum coach Andrew Patterson and conditioning coach Steve Macintyre. But I believe a school’s head coach should always be a teacher. They command respect, they have the ability to nurture, but most importantly, they uphold the tradition of schoolboy rugby.
Without tradition, we lose perspective of why we play rugby. We play it for enjoyment, we bond, we learn about pride and we practice sportsmanship. We are taught to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. These factors extend far beyond our days at school and the question I want raise, as an era of professionalism looms upon schools, is: Will a coach, who is not part of the schooling system, be able to understand and uphold the values which make up the fabric of schoolboy rugby?