A coach responds to school rugby concussions
An ex-coach gives his view on rugby injuries at school level.
In response to our article "School rugby and concussions: why parents can't bury their heads in the sand", an ex-rugby coach responds:
I read the article with a very open mind and care.
I coached rugby till end of 2015 and stopped due to work commitments. I am a forensic investigator in my private capacity and attended training at the Lions.
As the coach, you remain ultimately responsible for each player under your supervision.
It is your duty and responsibility to keep your notes, injury list etc for your record purposes. Also, each coach at school level has a teacher appointed to the team to assist with admin responsibilities so the school has record and reports of neck- or back-related injuries.
The parents of an injured player has no choice but to adhere [to official rules], but the eagerness of some coaches to have players back [on the field] outweighs that responsibility. It will take one case in court to prove that the coach was negligent in letting an injured player play to highlight this "tragedy".
Yes, injuries do happen, it is a contact sport and we coach the correct way to tackle etc, but schoolboys and even experienced international level players get it wrong from time to time.
I have refused to play a reserve prop in a match due to the fact that I had not deemed the player physically fit and not coached enough to feel sure that he will not get injured in scrums.
At first the parents were very furious, later apologised. But what touched me most was that the opposition parents came to give thanks and support for a very tough and valid decision I had to make to prevent a young man from injuring himself.
I know of many coaches who do the same, yet, being a teacher at a school makes it more difficult due to parental pressure places on the teacher or coach. As an outside coach, it makes it easier to remain neutral and focus on the player rather the emotional aspect when it comes to injuries.
Are you a coach or teacher who has experienced lots of pressure from parents to let their boy play rugby even if you don't feel he's fit or strong enough? Are you a parent concerned that your boy is being pushed too far on the field? Send your comments (anonymously if you wish) to firstname.lastname@example.org for possible publication.