Some doyens of the local schools rugby community are voicing growing concerns about the negative effects the cancelled 2020 season will have on players’ prospective careers.
The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in schools closing and students learning from home, ultimately leaving no room for sport as finishing the academic year is prioritised. Unfortunately, this means that Grade 12 rugby players will miss out on an opportunity to finish their schoolboy rugby careers on a high.
In an interview with the Daily Maverick’s Craig Ray, several headmasters of prominent rugby schools have revealed how the cancellation of the season has not only impacted negatively on prospective professional rugby careers, but also on academics.
‘I teach an online maths lit class to our matrics, and one of the boys who is in the first team rugby, just wasn’t engaging. Suddenly he lashed out at me and said: “Sir, you’re pushing us too hard, giving us too much work and going too fast”,’ Dale College headmaster Garth Shaw told Ray.
‘So, I met him privately on another chat and told him that he hadn’t been engaging for a week, he hadn’t responded to messages, which is why he was struggling to keep up. I was concerned, and asked if it was a lack of data or something else. What I picked up from our conversation was a real negativity and anger that he has lost his rugby season. His anger was being projected on to me as his teacher.
‘We are aware as staff of the psychological impact of this Covid-19 lockdown on the boys but also on the teachers. I’ve taken advice from the school counsellor so we can effectively manage how kids are feeling at this time and how the pandemic is affecting them, especially when it comes to sport.’
Jeppe Boys High headmaster Dale Jackson echoed Shaw’s sentiments: ‘Education is so much more than the classroom. Education is also about sport. In 2020 scholars are missing out on a big chunk of their education. There is a lot of research that shows that being active in sport helps teenagers improve their academic results. It’s not like students are suddenly going to study for an extra four hours a day because there is no sport.
‘I speak to other headmasters and our worry is that academics will suffer in the absence of sport. If you tell a 17-year-old that there is no rugby for the rest of the year, that doesn’t motivate him or focus his mind on academics. It’s the opposite – it demotivates and defocuses him.’
Janse van der Ryst said this pandemic has highlighted the local rugby fraternity’s inability to adapt to swift and unexpected change.
‘What worries me is that as a school, or in terms of sport what SA Rugby has done, is that we are very good at some things because of tradition but we are not very good at adapting and thinking creatively. Maybe it’s because our foundations are strong and most of the things we do, work. But this pandemic is asking questions of us we never anticipated and we are having to adapt.
‘Hopefully SA Rugby will use this as a chance to think creatively and come up with a solution to give boys with higher rugby ambitions a chance to show what they can do. I don’t believe that is too much to ask.’
Photo: Dale College