How can youth rugby help you become successful as an adult if you are not good enough to go professional?
Rugby is a hugely popular sport, and it’s becoming more so every year. But, while the base of the rugby participation pyramid is undoubtedly widening, the peak isn’t getting much higher. There are a limited number of professional teams, and very few amateur ruggers will ever get paid to play.
For some, this begs the question – why bother playing at all?
A lot of parents think their kids should focus on academia as the odds are very low that they’ll be able to make a living from rugby. Time spent on rugby is time that could be better spent reading.
And while there is a certain amount of logic to this mindset, it’s also a little short-sighted as playing rugby (or any competitive sport) offers a wide range of benefits, even if the player never turns professional.
It’s a mistake to take up a sport with the ultimate goal of playing professionally. Sports pros are the rarest of the rare. But, in many ways, playing sports at an amateur level can be just as rewarding, and the benefits are considerable.
Today, we’ll explore those benefits so that, even with no hope of turning professional, youth players and their parents can see the value of playing rugby.
The most obvious benefit of playing rugby is better fitness and health. Rugby is one of the few sports that requires and develops all aspects of physical fitness. Including:
Physical fitness is intrinsically linked to better health, and healthier kids tend to grow into healthier adults. Kids involved in sport are also more likely to make healthier life choices, such as not drinking alcohol, abusing drugs, smoking, or eating unhealthily.
Playing rugby may also prevent weight gain, and, given the current obesity crisis, this is no bad thing. While it’s true that childhood obesity levels are still rising, it’s also interesting to note that sports participation levels are falling. This is probably not a coincidence.
Playing sports can have a massive impact on mental health. As more and more kids are being diagnosed with things like stress, depression, and other mental health problems, it’s good to know that, for some at least, the solution could be on the sports field, rather than in the doctor’s office or the pharmacy.
The mental health benefits of playing rugby include:
Needless to say, these sports-related benefits will also improve academic performance, and that’s something most parents will be glad to hear.
Life skills are things that you need to be successful but are rarely taught. They are often the by-product of experiences. And yet, playing rugby can help young players develop skills and personality traits that will help them in almost every aspect of their life outside of sport.
It’s no exaggeration to say that sports have the potential to turn a good kid into an even better adult, even if they never earn a dime from playing.
Some of the life skills that rugby can help develop include:
Unlike running or swimming, rugby is all team, all the time. Even if you don’t score a try, your contribution can affect the outcome of the game, for better or for worse. Kids who learn the value of teamwork are much more likely to become useful members of society, which is, by its very nature, team-like.
Being part of a team means you need to be able to communicate effectively. Success outside of rugby relies on good communication too. Playing on a rugby team also means being able to communicate with a wide range of personality types, which mirrors the demands of interacting with a wide range of people.
Rugby is not an easy sport to play. To succeed, even as an amateur, you need grit and determination. Pushing yourself both in training and competition will teach kids to push through even when things get difficult. Determination is a very valuable life skill that is all-but crucial in adulthood.
Sport is an excellent allegory for life. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Winning is obviously rewarding, but emotionally at least, it’s pretty easy. Unfortunately, for every high of winning, there is a low of losing too.
Losing at sports teaches you how to deal with setbacks. Developing the ability to pick yourself up and dust yourself off after a setback is one of the most noteworthy traits of successful people.
On even the most closely-knit team, there will be friction between players and personality clashes. You can’t get on with everyone! But, if a player is to be successful, they need to get along with people they don’t necessarily like so much, for the sake of the team dynamic.
This is a lot like working for a company as an adult. You’ll end up spending eight or more hours per day with people not of your choosing. You need to get along with your colleagues, even if you don’t like them very much.
Being on a sports team will develop the skills that allow you to get along with others, even if they aren’t the sort of people you’d typically chose to be around.
Rugby is a hard sport, and injuries are common. Being injured can keep put you out of action, for weeks or even months, even at the youth level. Regaining lost fitness and strength, doing your rehab, and staying focused on rugby despite not being able to play teaches resilience.
In non-rugby life, you may be ill or affected by an injury. A lot of people find such situations mentally crushing. Rugby teaches you how to power through despite discomfort and pain.
To the uninitiated, rugby can look like a lawless game. But, as any player knows, there are a lot of rules that you have to learn and play by if you want to avoid the wrath of the referee. Laws and regulations are part and parcel of living in any civilized society, and learning to follow the rules as a kid will make following laws as an adult much easier.
Unlike soccer, where referees are frequently abused verbally, and even physically, rugby refs are treated with respect. Ref abuse is very rare in rugby, and players usually accept the ref’s decision, even if they disagree with it. Developing a healthy respect for people in authority is no bad thing and can make interactions with such people more harmonious.
Of course, while rugby can be incredibly beneficial, there are some downsides and drawbacks to playing this sport we love. The most obvious ones being:
Even playing youth rugby can result in serious injuries. All it takes is a mistimed tackle or a collapsed scrum. Thankfully, rugby injuries are very rare, and referees are trained to put safety first at all times.
Training and playing rugby requires a time commitment, both from the youth player and their parents. With academic pressure mounting, it may be hard to justify spending time on rugby that could have been spent studying. However, the skills learned on the rugby pitch are every bit as valuable as those learned in the classroom.
Losing is part of sport. It happens to everyone at some point. Some kids find losing very hard to deal with. That’s why a lot of institutions have moved away from competitive sports and emphasize participation instead.
However, losing in sports helps prepare kids for setbacks in life, so while these disappointments can be viewed as a downside, they can also be valuable learning experiences.
Rugby boots, uniforms, getting to and from training and games, supplements…all these things can be expensive and, as a parent, you may find it hard to meet the costs of your child’s rugby obsession.
But, remember the benefits that go beyond merely playing a sport. You are investing in their future! And, if they ever ARE good enough to go pro, they’ll probably buy you a house in return so fair dues! (JOKING!)
Playing rugby professionally is a dream for many players, but one that only a very small percentage will achieve. But just because you might never make money from playing rugby doesn’t mean all the blood, sweat, and tears are wasted. In fact, and especially for youth players, rugby can be incredibly beneficial and rewarding.
While training and playing rugby could take kids away from their studies, which is a worry for parents, it could also make them a better person. It will teach and develop the life skills you need to be successful and is good for your current and long-term physical and mental health.
And while you may never make money playing rugby, you may find that getting paid to play is not all it’s cracked up to be. Careers are usually short, and an injury can bring it to a premature end. Playing for fun is arguably more rewarding too!
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