Rugby as a (role) model for competing

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Is rugby the best role model for competing? I believe so. I may be entirely biased since I played rugby (union) for more than fifteen years of my life, but I have established a personal credo that says that when I encounter another rugby player I am very probably going to be able to get along with that person under virtually any conditions. Despite the vast pressure, the demonstrations of team spirit and good sportsmanship post-match thus far at the RWC have been sterling examples for how sport should be played. Yes, there have been altercations and some nasty boots and tackles. That’s part of the war-like environment in the heat of the match. Yet, the vivid emotions after the match were testament to the intensity of the game. The upset favorites (All Blacks and Wallabies) totally in dismay. The underdog victors (France and England) in ecstasy. And yet, the teams shook hands with solid displays of good sportsmanship. No gloating by the winners. No sour grapes from the losers. Good natured winning and dignified (if still incredulous) losing.

Among the strong values in rugby is the lack of glorification around the person doing the scoring. There is no madman running around lifting up his shirt and kissing the sky to the adulation of the fans. Typically, there will be a pat on the back from the teammates and a “let’s get on with it” attitude. A score is normally the result of a team effort. The kicker, for his part, has an assignment.

Another favourite (for amateur rugby at least) is, of course, the famous 3rd half, down at the local pub–once we hit the legal drinking age, ahem–where both sides will meet for a drink’em up/patch’em up get-together.

In the face of the multiple sporting scandals around doping, gambling, rigging of results, is society losing touch with the purpose of sports? In my life, sports have always served as the three E’s: entertainment, exercise and education. For most sports these days, there is just too money circulating it would seem to key a “valuable” eye on the ball.

Rugby sportsmanship isn’t always perfect; nor does it have a monopoly on good sportsmanship. It exists fortunately everywhere. However, among the other team sports that show genuine good spirit after hard combat I would cite ice hockey and lacrosse. And I pay particular attention to these sports where, for the most part, there is not the same kind of money as in other professional sports. Playing rugby comes above all from an authentic passion for the game, not because of a dollar bill waved in the air (although it is of course a professional sport in the big rugby playing countries and the players receive adulation and achieve star status).

To allow a child to play a rough sport at school is often a challenge for the parent. That’s not essential, but the three sports of ice hockey, lacrosse and rugby have my vote for giving the best and most authentic values. Whatever the team sport, learning the camaraderie (as well as the leadership skills) in true team sports is an invaluable lesson for life and business.

I cite some interesting articles and blogs below that I picked up on good sportsmanship.

Great example in football from Leicester City FC (featuring my old friend Tim Davies who is Chief Exec): Leicester City Site which I found about courtesy of Centre of Soccer

For better kids health:
How to teach your kids good sportsmanship

10 ways to be a good sport… [defunct]

From Touching Base magazine (

Some blogs on the topic of good sportsmanship (there are many on the subject)
Vicky & Jen [defunct]
The Sporting Life [defunct]

9 Comments, RSS

  1. F. Marichaux

    I noticed the same phenomenon of good sportsmanship. After the France-New Zealand match, the (obviously gutted) Kiwi head coach congratulated the French as having been the better team, and I didn’t see anything mean-spirited about the French celebration. My own favorite sports, alas, American football and baseball, can’t claim such good etiquette. Maybe cricket?

  2. Tom

    Very interesting that it is the sports that have the least money and that are the most physically dangerous, that seem to produce the best sportsmanship, camaraderie and ‘life skills’.

    There’s a moral there somewhere…

  3. Nick

    it’s very true, rugby is an extremely collegial game, at least at the moment. The fact that you can have two hundred rabid fans packed into a bar meant to hold one hundred, a third French, a third English and a third Irish, the latter group not known for their affection for the English, and not have one bit of agro is testament to the veracity of your observations.

  4. Wadard

    I had a double shot of love for rugby growing up in South Africa and emigrating to Australia. I can tell you that, right now, rugby is bringing the whole of South Africa together. They extended the ticker tape parade through Soweto (more known for it’s love of soccer) by popular demand.

    And look what it has done for the self-esteem of the minnow nations?

    My two observations about rugby are that the crowds are well behaved (say compared to soccer) and it’s a game that accommodates the range of body shapes and sizes.

  5. AEB

    One of the reasons that I enjoyed playing rugby was the concept of sportsmanship. Even if you were beating the hell out of each other on the field, you could still shake hands at the end of the match, have some beers, and then sing some of the funniest songs into the night. Maybe instead of world armies, we should have world rugby teams indeed.

  6. Minter

    @ wadard: two great and different rugby nations and yet we find the same values.

    @ AEB, there is a dictum that says that the wars of England are won on the playing fields of Eton… there has always been a connection somewhere!

    In the Southwest of France, they customarily create a zone at the stadiums for families…personally, I feel safe in among the “gang” at rugby matches because, as you say Nick, they are generally collegial and well behaved.

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