Recently a principal of a Colombo based rugby playing school told me of an incident where an old boy of another school had come to see him. He had to tell this old boy to remove the piece of cloth hanging around the neck collar and tie it on the mongrel barking outside his office. [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Ethics, rules and coaching of rugby schools


Recently a principal of a Colombo based rugby playing school told me of an incident where an old boy of another school had come to see him. He had to tell this old boy to remove the piece of cloth hanging around the neck collar and tie it on the mongrel barking outside his office. The reason for his anger was the proposition made to him to get a school rugby player who had been already approached released as required by the directions of the education authorities.

He lamented that it is not rugby alone that has to be considered but also the mental and psychological aspects of a young player who has been approached. His question was what right have these old boys got to approach a principal of another school.

There are many practices of deviant behaviour taking place pushed by pupils of a past era with the consent of heads of schools and or that they look the other way around. This was explained as money bags have to be considered as otherwise we cannot spend so much on a sport. If we don’t think of what they say then either we don’t do sport or face the risk of being sent packing.

There is a story circulating how a parent was offered money for the transfer of a kid and having agreed the money changed hands. The short circuit was when the priest of the local temple heard and castigated the parents for selling their children and the player is back with the old school while the purchaser has lost.

In a circular issued by the Ministry of Education on April 30, 2009, the Secretary of the Ministry calls for diligence when selecting external people as coaches and has detailed a procedure to be followed. The crux of the matter in this circular is the need to prevent students being open to abuses of sexual, physical and mental nature.

I was also referred to a circular issued on April 30, 2014 drawing attention to the 2009 circular under the heading appointment of outsiders as coaches. The 2014 circular goes further and in the body includes the recruitment of consultants whoever they may be. The circular goes onto say that these appointments have ended causing problems to students, teachers and well as principals.

I was told that there is a strong amalgam being made of principals of schools who are losing players or whose players are being lost to start taking action using the Ministry Circular to cite mental abuse and seek redress.

It leads me to ask why these are happening when school sport is about inculcating the young to play within the rules even though I know that I will not get caught if I cheat. To teach then that Anti-doping (supplement) programmes seek to preserve what is intrinsically valuable about sport; “Spirit of Sport.” This is the celebration of the human spirit, body and mind. Value less and unethical facets is fundamentally contrary to the Spirit of Sport. The thinking that has been and

Applicable even today is that sport is about the honourable pursuit of victory. It is not just about playing by the rules; it is also about playing within the spirit of the rules. It requires sportsmanship, fair play, playing clean, and respect.  

Sports, at times, bring a deviant culture among some who possibly scale a wall and enter a girl’s school during big match times. Others go parading on cycles or old crocks while the most recent I saw was container flat beds. Some call this as tradition while others like to frown and grumble saying this is not our culture. Most are aimed at what they perceive as fun events while other issues of a culture that is not normal do surface. These include invading of grounds and then causing disturbance and or getting high in spirits as well as abusing match officials.

The big match and cricket season is over and all eyes are on Schools Rugby which as always draws attention for reasons that are driven more by emotion than by logic as the game itself builds feeling.

When we talk of culture, discipline, spirit and values there is a huge role to play by coaches as well as those who are in advisory and or consulting roles. There is a need to have people who have a rugby spirit and the well-being of the young in mind.

The school coach must be a role model and set an example for those in his care to follow. But then when coaches abuse referees and the consultants and advisers follow believing the coach is right: what do you expect from the young. In a rugby match the referee uses the captain as the focal point of communication. His message to the team is through the captain. The captain is also used to warn the bench and even the coach when they break the rules of the technical zone and or hurl abuse from that area. What leadership and or example can a coach give when the captain comes over to say that “Sir you are warned and stand the chance to be removed from the playing area”. Technically the referee need not warn and ask a coach to leave and what if the captain is used to ask the coach to leave.

Recently an incident happened in a match where the referee used the captain to warn the bench. Probably the action made the coach see blue and was seen in better behaviour. Then what can he tell the boys in future.

* Vimal Perera is a former player, coach, referee and an IRB Accredited Referees’ Educator

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