Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saturday Morning Musings - school sport in a professional measurement world

This post is a brief follow up to Sydney school sports' wars. The bigger post that I wanted to write is taking time. There is a very big story here about the evolving world of sporting and indeed academic competition among schools.

I stumbled across all this because my old school (TAS - The Armidale School) re-entered the GPS Rugby competition. I started going to the games. Then I stumbled across the Green & Gold Schoolboy Rugby Forum. one of a number of Rugby Forums. I go to see these games on my own, meaning I have no-one to share with. I have really enjoyed the games, but its actually quite lonely, For that reason, I started to post on the Green & Gold NSW GPS forums from a TAS and then broader country perspective.

It's been quite rewarding, although very distracting in time terms. Game time plus writing time takes away from my other priorities, but I like it from both a sharing viewpoint and because, perhaps, I provide a different perspective from those embedded in what is really a Sydney competition. Like all forums there are fire fights, strong views, but my fellow commenters have been very kind to me. I try to be balanced, to keep a focus on the fun side. to share. 

Before continuing these brief comments, here are two links. Number one is a story by Malcolm Knox in the Sydney Morning Herald, Schools learn lessons of sporting world. The second is a video celebrating Newington College's 2013 Rugby success. You don't have to watch the whole video, but do look at the first few minutes. Further comments follow the video.


Eldest daughter is fond of US school and college sporting underdog films. You know, new coach comes in in difficult and leads the team to triumph to the benefit of all. In a way, this video fall in that class with its focus on triumphalism. But that's not what I want you to focus on.

Look at the power and speed of those boys. Remember, this is school boy rugby. We live in a performance focused, measurement focused, competitive world. As the best get better, the gap between them and the pack widens. TAS is a rugby school, a centre for Australian Institute of Sport rugby development in Northern New South Wales. Its approach to rugby is as professional in coaching terms as that holding in Sydney, But it is half the size of the Sydney GPS schools. Our firsts played and won the Sydney GPS thirds competition, but would have been demolished in the firsts. 

The competition between schools is not limited to the GPS, nor too sport.  All the schools, state as well as private, try to compete within the limits set by budget and focus. They also adjust at the margin.

For example, as a selective High School and the only state school in the NSW GPS, Sydney High attracts the academically inclined kids and the driven parent kids, those driving and indeed sacrificing so that their kids can get the best professional start. This creates an imbalance problem in other areas like sport or indeed just the demographic and social balance in the school itself,  So Sydney High is changing its rules to give local kids a better chance to get in,

In sport, the problem is further complicated by the professionalisation in adult sport. All teams in all codes look to their feeders, the schools and junior competitions. They want first shot at the boys and increasingly girls who might give them that later edge. This gives rise to what is called warehousing, the paid placement of kids at schools by sports or sporting teams. Of course the schools like this, for they get the kid and cash, as well as the kid's contribution to school sporting success.There are no instant rights or wrongs in all this.

At present, I am working in an Aboriginal organisation.  Sport provides an opportunity for Aboriginal advancement. I talk proudly about TAS's role in this area. Two TAS boys are playing in the national indigenous team about to compete in the national under sixteen rugby competition. I am proud of the boys and of my school for giving them the chance. But where do I draw the line in terms of the broader debate?

My feeling is that we need a proper analysis of the complexities that we find ourselves in, not the simplistic focus of the recent SMH stories with their focus on economic and social inequality.Do we ban Aboriginal sporting scholarships? I would have thought no, but that may well be the outcome of the current debate.   

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