Dear Mr President,   I write to you in the hope that you would heed my specific request, so that, the future of School Rugby is safe, the way it is truly meant to be. The system in Sri Lanka all these years was to find National sportsmen via the schools. Once a talented sportsman is [...]


Create a level playing field for all schools

An Open Letter to HE the President about School Rugby

Dear Mr President,  

I write to you in the hope that you would heed my specific request, so that, the future of School Rugby is safe, the way it is truly meant to be. The system in Sri Lanka all these years was to find National sportsmen via the schools.

Once a talented sportsman is selected to the National team, he/she is then taken to the international arena. This is how great sportsmen are born. There was a time when the sports arena and this entire system was carried out excellently. Especially, in Cricket or Athletics, these sportsmen and women played in the international arena as well. These individuals did not go to the international arena through school because they had special coaches and trainers, but in most cases, simply under the training of their PT teachers and masters-in -charges. In those days, just like in other countries, from eight in the morning until school is over, importance is given to education, not to sports. Sports are considered to be extra-curricular activities after school. After school, if you wish to pursue sports, you may join a club, and become part of the team. That is how the sport was played. But today, that is not the case. This is a country with free education and the sport is also considered to be an aspect of free education. There are teachers and coaches for the sport as well, within the school. In a country like that, if we do not make proper use of it, two things would happen. The biggest destruction is that, we create a future generation who do not know sports or, physical education. Who is not a part of any sport. This leads to a huge decline in the child’s health and physical aspects. Obesity, laziness etc are all a consequence of this. Secondly, the remaining children will neglect their studies, assuming that sport is why they go to school. This is one of the main reasons I’m writing this, and take Rugger as exhibit A.

During the past few years, Rugger was made a very popular sport. Many a sacrifice was made, and a lot of money was spent on this sport. However, the question is whether this was merely a sport in the main cities or, whether this sport was a part of the rural areas as well. Even today, what we see is schools in Colombo and Kandy playing Rugger. The other cities and rural areas are hardly aware of this sport. Even within Colombo, maybe four or five schools are involved in the sport. Schools such as Royal College, Isipathana College, S. Thomas’ College and St. Peter’s’ College. In Kandy the schools involved are Trinity College, St. Anthony’s College, Dharmaraja College and Kingswood. Other than these eight schools, the other schools play with ups and downs. There are reasons for this.

Some of the major schools involved in Colombo and Kandy, spend large amounts of money on this sport. With this spending, the competition between schools is fair or not remains a question. For example, if one school is spending over Rs 20-30 million on this one sport, the remaining schools will receive a meagre amount of money. What I understand is that, Sri Lanka School Rugby Association has got only half of this amount to cater to all schools in Sri Lanka. There is a major imbalance in the field, as anyone can see. Many will get demotivated because of this. Many of these schools don’t have a lot of perks.

While a school like Isipathana plays Rugger mainly because it is truly in their blood, another school, more prestigiously comes forward with a team fed solely for the purpose of playing Rugger, where they have brought in a coach specifically to train the players, with perks that other schools can’t afford. Where is the balance here?

After we won the ICC World Cup in 1996, cricket spread to rural areas as well. This meant, that the children from the rural areas got a chance to play the sport. Most in our National team consists of players from rural areas, who came forward solely due to their talent, and not because they were put under a special diet, trained specifically to win a match for the school.

Mr President, I ask that you intervene with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Sports to bring the balance that is lacking in Schools’ Rugby. The first thing to be done is to find out how and from where these sponsors are receiving such large amounts of money to spend. It must be audited.

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The next step is to dispense of the notion that these children need to win at any cost. These children need to be taught to accept defeat. I have witnessed children crying when they lose. Sportsmen do not cry when they lose. Losing a game should be a part of the journey. But, when these children are taught to win at any cost, they fail to understand the true value of the sport. Yet another consequence of this is the fact that, the child’s education takes a backseat. Education comes first. I personally know of some schools where these children are excused every day, so that, they can practice, instead of attending class. The teachers record them as being present, even though they do not attend class. They do not do exams, only Rugger. Sport is an extracurricular activity. Not the sole reason one goes to school.

However, with what happens today, the children are under the notion that education is extracurricular and not the other way around. What happens here is that, children who came to do both, focus only on sport. That Rs 20 to 30 million I mentioned earlier, is spent on just 25 students in a school where at least 5,000 students attend.

Mr President, all children have a right to receive both sports and education. But because we focus on the team, the rest of the students are neglected. There is another issue that I would like to point out. That is “imports”. The best example for this is Science College. They built their team from scratch, with the help of the parents and the students. What happened to them? Their players were poached by other schools with a bigger name, that put them down. You can’t blame the students and the parents for going to another school that has a better name, but the schools who poach these students should understand what they’re doing is wrong.

The Ministry of Education should look into this. Under what circular did they take these students? There is no circular that allows a school to take a student from another school, because he/she is good in sports. Mr President, this is a serious issue that the Ministry of Education should look into. Because, if this carries on, the big schools which spend a lot of money, will start importing students from other countries like Fiji. Then sports in schools will then turn into a mere business affair.

Yet another issue we see in this field is pumping the child with steroids and protein shakes. These Mr President, are children. There are certain nutrients they should be given and other nutrients they should not be given. They are put through exercises children should not be put through. This results in a future generation of 25-year-olds with back pains and neck issues and such, because they were pushed to the limit from a very young age. Their entire youth is marred because of this.

Furthermore, there should be a distinction between the training of the child and the training of a youth from the forces. The forces are trained in a tough environment, but that doesn’t mean the child should be trained in a similar fashion. Children should be allowed some leeway, and the trainer should understand this. There are some coaches who not only beat up or, scold the children, but even scold the parents. Mr President, the Ministry of Education and the Sports Ministry should intervene and ensure that all schoolchildren receive the relevant training needed, the correct way.

Meanwhile, they should also bring in a circular or, rule, that makes education mandatory. Student should not be allowed to engage in sports activities during school hours, and should also not be allowed to take part in sports activities, if he or she is absent from school. Education should be made the first priority. There should also be a rule where schools practice for no more than three days a week, because then, all schools are on the same level. It is true that professional players cannot adhere to this rule but, because this is far from professional, because this is still considered a school sport, this should come into effect. Mr President, if these steps are taken, I believe School’s Rugby can be what it should be. A sport that teaches students the values of teamwork and hard work. Not a massive, violent encounter among two opposing schools.

Ayesh Ranawaka


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