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The JR Blog

The JR Blog tackles the topics effecting Rugby, with a special interest on the effects they may have on the Junior Rugby world.

The age old discussion (excuse the pun), should players be graded by age or weight?

I suppose the greatest statement for the case of age grading is that players will have to face a player of size sooner or later, therefore the sooner the players get used to playing bigger players the better. Secondly when is the correct age to bring back the age grading? If science is used then players will be around 16 when the pubity tapers off.

Truthfully there is no perfect grading system, there will always be a problem for someone. However, we have to step back and take into consideration the future of rugby. With this in perspective rugby junior numbers are declining and one of the key reasons is that parents (in particular mum’s) and players are turning towards sports of less contact. The question should then be simply, which grading system would attract junior players (between 6-12 years) and their parents to the game.

Obviously when looking at the grading system through the eyes of a 6-12 year old size would be a big determining factor. If you or I were to choose playing against a player around my size or against a player my age, it’s pretty obvious which way we will tend towards. In the early years players need to gain confidence, especially in contact which then spills over into all the other aspect of the game.

Generally speaking the early ages of rugby is a confidence and game sense stage, in which players will gain an understanding of all the facets of rugby and hopefully increase their confidence. Tackling is gradually phased in along with the structural elements of the game, i.e. the scrum and line out. As the players move towards the 12 years age they are generally refining their skill level and technical aspects of the game. The point I am trying to make is that playing against players of the same size and not age is not going to be detrimental to the players. In fact around the age 12 players will be making a decision about whether they stay with the sport or move on and if they are feeling confident they will continue playing.

Is 16 too old to change over to the age grading system? If we are taking into consideration a very general understanding of pubity then 16 is about the age most of the body changes start to plateau out. At this age most of the players should have gained enough confidence playing against players of their own size and hopefully become comfortable with their own body size/shape. Contact shouldn’t be a problem for them and the correct tackling technique should be embedded in their game, reducing the chance of injury. This all lends itself to a quick adaption of the new variety of sizes in the game.

The only possible spanner in the works could come from players who have a considerably slow growth and don’t appear to be moving through the grades. The only way to reduce the chance of a small 10 year old playing against a large 8 year old would be to contain the weight grading to a difference of 2 years, for example distribute the players according to weight with in an age of 2 years, for example 6/7 years, 8/9 years, 10/11 years, 12/13 etc.

What about the school rugby sector? Generally speaking the open teams contain players of varied ages selected according to their talent, so age is of little consideration. Most of the open team will be 16 and older reducing the impact of the weight grading on selection. In the lower ages weight can be easily used to grade the players and would probably increase or even out the inter-school competition.

Rugby should be attempting to shrug the image of a dangerous sport and reduce the possibility of injuries. With parents, in particular mums, pushing their kids towards sport of little contact every act of creating confidence in the sport is necessary. Parents and players will definitely perceive the sport as less dangerous if they are going to play against players of their own size or weight.

At current most sports are determined by age rather than weight, which leaves a great opening for rugby to take the leading move and possible increase the players population. Hopefully parents will see the step forward taken by rugby as a positive and register their kids in the local competition. Once the players and parents become accustomed to the game there is a better chance they will remain with the game.

At present I can’t see a better way of gaining the confidence of young players and parents, can you?


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Jason Grier | Friday, August 07, 2009 | Comments ((Disabled)) | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

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