With its national ban on contact sports for the over-18s, the new Scottish lockdown effectively expands the ban on professional rugby adopted in November by the Scottish Rugby board.
This time, the difference is the complete closing of the schools until at least February – more likely April or May, I would imagine – and this closure, along with the current ban, is creating real concerns that we are seeing the loss of a generation of rugby players in Scotland.
Anyone active in rugby clubs around Scotland will inform you that the late teens and early twenties are the significant years for player recruitment and retention. But that’s also the era where a lot of young people are lost in clubs because they’re either starting college or discovering other things, and I’m not just talking about sex, drugs, and rock.
In recent years, the SRU has done its utmost to encourage clubs to find and retain players. As the SRU says, “It is the responsibility of all adults in the game to create an environment that is player-centered, developmental and competitive. This applies to coaches, parents, teachers, volunteers and fans.”
To make this job simpler, the Union has also modified the rules. “During the 2018-19 season, a trial series of Age Grade Law Variations (AGLVs) was introduced to support a more enjoyable and inclusive game for players in Mini Rugby and the Boys Youth Game. In addition, a tailored set of AGLVs for the girls’ game has been introduced for the 2019-20 season, following the same principles to develop an enjoyable and inclusive game.”A trial series of Age Grade Law Variations (AGLVs) was introduced during the 2018-19 season to facilitate a more enjoyable and inclusive game for Mini Rugby and the Boys Youth Game players. In addition, for the 2019-20 season, a tailored set of AGLVs for the girls’ game was introduced, following the same principles to develop an enjoyable and inclusive game.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that the AGLVs worked, some of which were revised. Clubs had fun using them, but then it came along with the coronavirus and wiped out all the progress. I doubt there is a club coach in the country, coupled with the suspension of contact sports, including training, who is not worried about the immediate future of his players and probably his club itself.
An article posted on the Facebook page of the private school by Clifton Hall School principal Rod Grant was the scariest thing I’ve read recently. Although I disagree with his conclusion that it’s wrong to close colleges, you should also pay attention to his private account.
He wrote, “I’m not a conspiracy theorist; on the fringe of a fringe group, I’m not some radical. I’m just a teacher, and what I see is this:”
I have experienced mental health problems in my school and schools like this in the last three months, which I have never seen in my career. I’m not trying to exaggerate or be emotional about what lockdown really does to children.
I’m seeing children diagnosed with psychiatric depression, a rise in self-harm (even in Scotland, where 15-year-old girls in the world still have the highest rate of self-harm, with one exception), suicidal thoughts, and, which I haven’t seen in at least 20 years, an increase in eating disorders again.
In addition, the same students who define online learning as stress-inducing are the students who display worrisome levels of stress and anxiety.
“Anyone who has attended a Zoom meeting knows how overwhelming it can be, and yet online learning is the big solution to our educational recovery. Well, I’m an educator, and I think it’s at best a terribly weak replacement for school learning.
Throughout this pandemic, our children’s needs seem to be at the bottom of the priority list of any government. The cynic in me would say it’s because they’re not allowed to vote. I’m not pessimistic, thankfully. It’s just as worrisome to me, though, to say that kids don’t matter as much if they don’t die.
Strong words and, yes, overstated, but the argument of Grant is that at this moment there is not enough care for children, particularly teenagers. Most teachers and pediatricians will agree, and long-term mental and physical health problems would result from the lack of support.
For young rugby players 18 and older, this is also real. What do you do if you can’t play a sport all of a sudden? I know that some clubs have found creative ways to keep young players playing, but where is the national guidance, where is it?