Thursday, 30 April 2009
Play rugby not football
I am sure you will all agree with me that rugby is a much better game than football (that's "soccer" to some of you). In particular, if we want to produce a nation of entrepreneurs then it is vital that we abandon all junior football related activity immediately and divert all attention and resources into mini-rugby.
The reasons are obvious. I observed them again first hand at the London Irish mini-rugby festival last Sunday. I spent 9 hours down in Sunbury, with 2,000 other people, coaches, dads, mums and of course the hundreds of young players themselves from across the UK and Ireland.
It's not so much the game itself. After all if people want to run around in dinky little shorts to kick a ball around that's there business. But there is a real contrast between the average junior football session and a mini-rugby match
There are four things kids will learn if they take up mini-rugby that will stand them in good stead for starting up businesses.
First, rugby is a hard, hard game. You play hard, take knocks, hit the ground hard, shake your head, get right back up and get straight back in to the game. If you writhe around on the floor shouting "Referee, it's not fair" then the game moves on and you get left behind.
Second, rugby is a team game, and it takes all sorts. Big guys in the front row. Lanky lads at Number 8. Tiny, speedy guys on the wing. It's great to see all the lads in all their diverse glory on a Sunday morning playing for the team. You don't want to be the "superstar" because the opposition will make it their business to squish you.
Third, the rules are the rules. You play by them, you play to the whistle and if the Ref says "penalty" it's a penalty and that's it. Don't mess with a rugby ref. Football refs are, well, different.
Finally, rugby dads are a breed apart. We all played rugby about 30 years ago, so we all think we know how to play now. We are all there on the sidelines, screaming away, shouting "Drive over, drive over", "take him down", "tackle him, the bigger they are the harder they fall, son" and the good old "come on, get up and get back in there you woose, it's only an ear, you've got another one haven't you?". But we never shout at the ref and we never shout at the opposition Dads.
And at the end of every mini-rugby match, no matter how hard and painful it was, no matter whether the ref was great or rubbish, no matter whether it was a friendly or the Cup Final, all the boys line up and shout "Three Cheers" for the other team and then they shake hands. Woah betide the one boy who is so upset that he doesn't want to cheer the other team off and shake hands. He will suddenly find a group of Dads and coaches telling him to get over there with the rest of the boys, after all "this isn't football you know".
So, the boys learn to play hard and bounce back from hard knocks. They learn that teamwork is everything and if you try to be a superstar you are going to get hit. They learn to play full on but to play by the rules. They learn the value of a good, hard coach and they learn to respect the opposition.
I can't think of a better set of rules for being an entrepreneur.
Mind you, when it comes to making big money, those ball juggling glory boys over in the football camp have got that wrapped up. And it's not like I hate football. After all I do support what is generally accepted to be the best team in the Premiership.
But on any given Sunday in the winter season, come rain or shine you will find me and my boy down at London Irish learning how to live life the rugby way.