Kate Hawkesby: What's the point of sport without competition?

Kate Hawkesby ,
Publish Date
Friday, 25 January 2019, 7:02AM
Isn’t the point of sport to be competitive? Photo / Getty Images
Isn’t the point of sport to be competitive? Photo / Getty Images

"It's official - boys are leaving rugby in droves” so went the headline in the paper.

This immediately grabbed me, because as a mother of two boys, I am aware of what an interesting time it is to be raising boys right now.

I wondered, as we enter World Rugby Sevens this weekend, why boys aren't playing high school rugby anymore?

Even rugby bosses were alarmed by this report, which said the number of teams has dropped 20 per cent since 2013. In one region it’s dropped 30 per cent.

So it's trending down and according to the report authors, at an alarming rate. Which they point out is even worse when you consider school rolls are increasing.

It says one of the issues is being able to form meaningful, viable competitions given only a few schools have strong rugby programmes.

The report warns that there are deep concerns about the sustainability of schools rugby success.

Which is fine for all those who think well who cares, it’s just school rugby.. but these are our future All Blacks.

Rugby is our national sport, like it or not it’s what we’re famous for globally.

The All Blacks are our biggest international brand.

Where are the future All Black’s coming from, if boys don’t take up rugby?

Only so many will be discovered through, or can play, Club Rugby. School rugby, grassroots stuff, should be a viable and enticing option for all potential players.

Pooling of talent’s an issue and one that bit St Kent's in the bum last year. The argument that the competition is not on a level playing field.

But also concerning is the way in which we’re even talking about school sport nowadays. That it’s got to have less fierce competition, that it should be more inclusive.

Well yes, but at what point does it then stop being sport and start just being participation?

Something where everybody “gets a go”. Where all are made to feel valuable, even if they’re actually not.

Isn’t the point of sport to be competitive?

The report talks a lot about the well-being and holistic development of participants and we’re going to hear, I guarantee, more of that kind of rhetoric out of the women's hockey report too.

So are we taking the edge off competitive sport? Are we running the risk of dumbing everything down to fun and games and at some point losing the competition aspect of it?

The figures in this latest report, while alarming to rugby bosses don’t even reveal the true extent of the decline in boys playing because the numbers are masked by the rising number of girls teams.

I’m not surprised girls teams are growing, and that, of course, is a good thing.

But we can’t continue to dilute or reduce sport to “friendlies”, because as lovely and holistic as that may be, it’s not really the best template to produce champions.

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