19th Sep, 2019

INTERVIEW: OLs coach slams calls for tackling to be scrapped in schools

RUGBY UNION: CALLS for tackling and scrums to be banned in physical education lessons have been frowned upon by an Old Leamingtonians coach.

Henry Rivera, one of the lead coaches at OLs booming youth set-up, has slammed comments from experts which state ministers should ‘put the interests of the child before those of corporate professional rugby unions’.

With obesity levels and child inactivity at an all time high, Rivera said the comments published were ‘not helpful’ to rugby and sport participation in general.

The father-of-two highlighted measures clubs – including OLs – go to, to ensure sport is played in a safe and healthy environment.

Speaking to The Observer, Rivera said: “All clubs are going out of their way to encourage kids to leave their playstations and televisions along to get out in the fresh air and play team sports.

“Youngsters develop friendships. The impact playing in a team has on someone is phenomenal.

“I’ve seen kids transformed by sport – not just rugby, I’m talking football, hockey, tennis, and more.

“Reports like this will put doubts in parents’ minds. The news reports won’t sway the view of parents involved at our club because they know how safety is a priority.

“But news like this will have an impact on parents considering to allow their children to start playing sport and being part of a team.

“The message that’s been put across isn’t positive – especially when you consider obesity and social dysfunctionality rates.”

One initiative used by Old Leamingtonians to gradually develop the physical element into the game of rugby for youngsters is Age Grade Rugby.

The scheme ensures young players only learn the tackling element of the game once they have established simple skills – such as passing and dodging.

Rivera added: “Age Grade Rugby helps youngsters overcome any fears they may have.

“For example the first year they will learn passing, then they will develop chasing skills and tagging.

“In the third year we introduce tackling, then rucks, scrums and line-outs in the following years.”

Old Leamingtonians is now home to hundreds of rugby enthusiasts of all ages.

The club’s Sunday morning sessions regularly attract between 600 and 700 players, all playing under the guidance of full trained coaches.

“We are always under friendly scrutiny from the RFU,” said Rivera.

“Coaches across the region are all well trained and injuries are rare – last year we had one incident when two kids clashed heads, but that’s it. We carried out a head case review – which we’re trained to do and moved on.

“What has been said isn’t a positive message that we need to encourage.”

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