The recent episode of banned substances as well as previous events of unacceptable behavior in schools rugby makes you wonder why people would take the risk despite the consequences that follow. I tried to find a reason and looked on a management and social theory. “The traditional view of managers is that they have virtually [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Why people take the risk despite the consequences


The recent episode of banned substances as well as previous events of unacceptable behavior in schools rugby makes you wonder why people would take the risk despite the consequences that follow. I tried to find a reason and looked on a management and social theory.

“The traditional view of managers is that they have virtually unlimited control over the organization and its purpose, functions and operations and therefore that they alone are responsible for all its successes and failures. This can be called the omnipotent view.There is a second, and growing point of view that suggests that much of the successes and failures of organizations are determined by external factors that cannot be controlled by managers. This is the symbolic view of management.

On certain issues schools stand unable to defend itself and the boys suffer, at times ending in ugly brawls

Coaches like managers are held responsible for the performance of the team. Sports teams compete against each other and performance measured and compared against scores, wins placing etc. One thing that happens to coaches when observed from the omnipotent view is that they are held responsible. Applied to coaches it suggests that they have complete control and influence on the performance of the team. Are these leading coaches and those involved to try and pass the milestone in any way to prove efficiency? I use the word efficiency as it is about doing it right. An example would be winning X number of matches including teams A and B. Effectiveness is about doing the right thing. This includes the core values of rugby, building an athlete and possibly the leader of tomorrow and a healthy citizen.

Effectiveness or efficiency is due to the decisions and actions of its managers who are the coaches and those who drive rugby in schools. The view of coaches as omnipotent is consistent with the stereotypical picture of the business executive who can overcome any obstacle in carrying out the objectives. In the omnipotent view, when teams perform poorly the coach has to take the responsibility and the consequences may be the stakeholders will pressurize to find another coach.

The symbolic view assumes: “the ability to affect outcomes as being influenced and constrained by external factors”. Apply this to a coach and the factors that need to be considered involve; that team is loaded with freshers. The parents may not send children to practices as it clashes with studies and attending extra classes while health and injury issues may arise.

The symbolic infers a limited effect on outcomes. Managers symbolize control and influence by developing plans, making decisions and engaging in other managerial activities. However, according to this view, the actual part that managers play in organizational success or failure is minimal. Is this applicable to a coach and can we substitute manager with the word coach
What we need to look at is that the coach is only a symptom of this ‘must-win’ culture whereas the disease lies elsewhere. Will the school authorities take the challenge to treat the disease? I am using schools in the context that it is the foundation of all good and bad and the club culture of the ‘must-win’ is another aspect.

The winning team in management of an organization as well as coaching of sports team in school has to be a combination of the omnipotent and symbolic approach. Then why do we have problems propping up whether it is supplements’ or abuse of match officials or resorting to rough play and underhand tactics. Day-in day-out we hear the blame shifted to somebody whether it is in the press; broadcast social media or the grapevine.

What would prevent college rugby from finding itself in a scandalous and sordid behavior sit termed arising again and again? Mind you most of these come from adults who think they are school boys sans the school bag, the water bottle or the soother. They are believers that since they have passed the portals of the schools they must rise to protect the virginity they are destroying. Additionally there are parents who would resort to anything to make sure your child shines more than ‘Jane’s child’.

The expectation make coach the most important and influential person in the achieving that win. The bottomline that allows the scandal to occur is not human frailty, but the pressure to perform. While the boast that we spend so much on the coach, this amount on nutrition and supplements’ working out to a tidy sum is also there.

Could the schools change this power structure? It could require the reality of sports as an educator and those coaches be paid no more than the highest paid teachers. This would make the coach just one important employee in the organization and not the most important or the highest paid.

But most schools coaches cannot be expected to behave responsibly when the institutional cohorts demand prominence and demand return for money and not value. The coverage in the media and the publicity to the school they believe is important than the excellence of a student.

The school head becomes unknown compared with his coach and advisers and is paid far less and does not enjoy the same charismatic authority in the eyes of the alumni.

The corruption of the incorruptible is a story of the absence of any value check on outcome, action and authority. So why does not anybody change, because the athletes provides a status ‘that way’ to the school. Rivalry between schools such as the Bradby and other trophy clashes can be branded and sell-well than all else. The coaches and advisers are a crucial part of the process. Schools may not have all that money while the various old boy committees bring the lucre which becomes filthy.

The influences on Heads of Schools’ come in many ways and the pressure is exerted leading to friction at times. The integrity is compromised and the scandal heats the fan distributing all over the ceiling. The school stands unable to defend itself and the boys suffer when they are referred to in derogatory terms.

Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, coach and Accredited Referees Evaluator IRB

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