Playing Rugby: The Emergence of Talent During the Primary and Secondary School Years
This explorative study examines the lives of six young men with a talent for playing rugby in order to understand how that talent emerges. The young men involved in this study had all played rugby for a secondary school first XV team and were members of the Wellington Red Tickets Rugby Academy. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to gain information about the young men's general involvement in sport and their perception of the support they had received during their early years, middle childhood years and adolescent years playing rugby. A small group of people comprising secondary school teachers and a parent were also interviewed to provide further insights into how talent is developed within the secondary school rugby system. The young men all discovered they had an aptitude for playing rugby at an early age and in most cases were encouraged to pursue rugby as a main sport by at least one parent and by others in their extended families. The middle childhood years and early secondary school years were characterised by an increasing degree of specialisation, visits to commercial gyms and an array of injuries. The research participants were very determined in their efforts to represent their college at the highest level and by their late adolescent years most in the group were entertaining ideas about becoming a professional rugby player. Stories told by the participants showed that they possessed, to varying degrees, six characteristics that greatly helped their success to date. These characteristics were: (1) awareness that rugby can be a career for only a select few, (2) responsiveness to coaching, (3) ability to set and work towards a long-term goal or goals, (4) decisiveness and an ability to prioritise, (5) valuing the input of others and (6) attractiveness. To date there has been very little research about where an ability to play rugby at the sub-elite or elite level actually comes from. This study about the processes involved in making it into a secondary school first XV team helps to alleviate this situation and has significance to those, like the New Zealand Rugby Union, who have an interest in building up the player base. It also adds to an existing pool of understanding about excellence in sport and has application to those wishing to attain success in any number of other endeavours.