A sense of belonging, pride and achievement
Rugby is part of NZ's culture and central to our cultural identity.
It is a great sport to introduce to children from about 2 years of age. As a sport rugby can help children learn that certain attributes and skills can be developed and grown:
- attributes such as respect for opponents, concentration, self-control, and perseverance
- skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking.
Introducing rugby early before school-age
By the age of 6 girls and boys who are introduced to rugby as toddlers and preschoolers can become quite expert at the the basics of rugby
You do not have to be passionate about rugby but you can very easily allow (e.g. through providing a small oval shape ball) and support girls and boys to learn about rugby and have fun participating in the sport.
2 - 4 years of age
Coordination is very difficult but developing during this time. Have fun hold onto the ball with two hands and running with it - and practise landing the ball for a try. Try to remember to look up and keep an eye on others while running with the ball.
Teach about and use the appropriate names for body parts e.g. heel, knee.
Always have an appropriate sized rugby ball accessible so children can initiate playing with it when they choose.
3 1/2 - 5 years
It's time to introduce paying tag rugby in teams. Children can pick team mates or be divided into 2 groups and wear a different colour t-shirt or something to identify the team they are on.
Introduce skills such as evasive running forward while facing members of the opposing team.
Provide time and space for children to practice and do lots of passing, receiving and kicking
- Take children to a rugby game. It may be a local game or a big match. Enjoy watching and soaking up the atmosphere and explain the game to the children as they are watching.
- Discuss with children what precautions rugby players take to reduce injuries and what they do when they get injured. Have a first aid day - practise doing bandages, walking with crutches, etc.
- Ask a teacher of a local school to bring his/her children to your early childhood service or take your children to visit them. Older children can be great in demonstrating the basic skills and rules of the game and younger children love having big buddies!
Rugby is too dangerous for young children
Until about 8 or 9 years of age rugby should be played as a non-contact sport. There should be no scrums, rucks, mauls and big hits.
For preschoolers, rugby is no more dangerous than swinging on the monkey bars or riding a bike.
It's for the boys
Boys and girls, women and men can play rugby. Most of the rugby shown on television and online features men's games and this gender bias in the media can give a false impression that all women and girls are not interested in rugby and/or not capable of handling an oval ball.
It is true some women (and some men) are not interested in rugby - they may prefer league, soccer, another sport or no sports at all!
But as mentioned above rugby is part of the cultural identify of NZer's as a people. It is a responsibility of early childhood education services to support children's development of a sense of belonging and citizenship. Including rugby within the early childhood curriculum helps services to meet this goal.
Moreover, because the early childhood years are an ideal time developmentally for children to learn the basics of rugby, children under the age of 6 should be provided the opportunity to learn the basics.