Rugby Initiations: In the team or Out of hand?

Rugby Expo Run-down!

This week, we were at the Rugby Expo in Twickenham, prepped and ready to go, showing our Performance Sports PVC-u fencing to professional rugby and the grass-roots representatives alike! We had so many fantastic clubs and companies coming to our stand to chat with us about their plans! Many clubs are finally realising the qualities our PVC fencing can bring them, as their deteriorating fences let down their grounds and metal rails negatively affect the safety of their sites. And by the sounds of it, everyone’s prepping their grounds for the second coming… of the Rugby World Cup 2015 that is.

duralock fencing at rugby expo
This was a huge theme of the event and naturally, a very hot topic. The Rugby Expo saw talks hosted across the two days from top bods in the industry and we had a front-row seat (well, sort of) from our Duralock stand, which was right next to the main stage! Whilst the delegates sat attentively listening to the expert advice dished out, we thought it would be rude not to join in! Bill Beaumont, rugby legend, past England manager and RFU Chairman, took the mic (unfortunately not for a stunning rendition of ‘Mamma Mia’) and spoke about the importance of getting more people involved in Rugby. During the two days and through expert eavesdropping, it emerged from the speakers that between the ages of 18-24, the interest in the sport decreases considerably and this got us into thinking… why?!

Bill Beaumont

The Mid-Rugby-Life Crisis

18-25: the big years. The days of going out with friends, defining your life and branching off! So why is it that in this crucial stage that those who once had a passion for rugby, suddenly seem to lose it? Is it because people out of the grasps of education, people no longer know where to go outside of their own school teams? Perhaps other vices become more appealing: the pub and nights out begin to look more appealing than a muddy field; waking up with a hangover is preferable to waking up with a broken nose? What about uni… those that go onto the try-outs of universities across the world?

Is it just for the commeraderie or has it been taken too far?

Is it just for the commeraderie or has it been taken too far?

The Notorious Initiation

University rugby says many things: ambition, competition, determination and team. The thing with university rugby is that it is not just as simple as signing up, you have to go through extensive try-outs (naturally) and once you’re in, there’s the infamous initiation. The word springs fear and added amusement into many students who have been on nights out and have witnessed acts of initiation! Now, don’t get us wrong; initiations happen across many different disciplines… medics and dentists also have their own little rites of passage, but it is rugby that has become notorious for their ‘team-building activities’. Though, of course, it can range… from the light-hearted and tame to downright horrific, derogatory and embarrassing acts. But it is a very common practise! Even the England Rugby team have an initiation for the players who are making their international debut, this was revealed by Chris Ashton a few years ago. He explained that every debut player was made to have a drink with each player, a total of 21 drinks. Now, from the horror stories we’ve read, this can safely be filed under the ‘tame’ category! (By this we are not condoning excessive alcoholism!)

Chris Ashton divulged the England team's initiation of heavy drinking for all international debuts

Chris Ashton divulged the England team’s initiation of heavy drinking for all international debuts

“A lot of the older boys told us if we didn’t complete the initiation then we wouldn’t make the team. If you did manage to make the team but refused the initiations, then you’d pretty much be ostracised. A couple of my friends decided to play for their subject teams rather than the university as they didn’t have to do the initiations.” –A university student:                            

So, with this in mind, is it initiations which are putting prospective players off continuing to play for a rugby club? For those attending uni, they may not be aware of the local clubs around them, having probably relocated half way across the country; or even how to try-out, so the seemingly straight-forward answer is therefore University clubs.

Don’t Judge a Rugby Hooker by it’s Cover

Now these are only our musings and could be completely unrelated to the declining statistics of 18-25 year olds interested in rugby, but what do you think? Are rugby initiations too graphic, too humiliating? Do they put people off joining a team or is it the idea that only the strong survive? If this is the case, what happened to the old saying ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover?’ Surely skill and sportsmanship isn’t based purely on whether one is made to flounce about doing derogatory acts or how many drinks one person can down (backwards) in 1minute 28 seconds?

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rugby world cup logo

Looking Towards 2015

The Rugby World Cup, 2015 is going to be a great boost for British rugby, especially with London 2012’s leading lady, Debbie Jevans at the helm. Hopefully the hype behind the event will encourage the 18-25 year olds to put those gum-shields back in and get back on the pitch! In the run-up and through the support of the governing bodies, local clubs should hopefully be getting more involved with communities, drawing in those ‘lost souls’ back to their grass roots.

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