Kids lose if schools, clubs score own goal

By Anendra Singh


Who needs armies and nuclear warheads when a retired NBA star can induce world leaders to meet amicably to settle their differences?

The common denominator for US leader Barack Obama and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-un, is obviously going to be basketball on the backdrop of political hostilities.

No doubt, the cross-dressing antics and anatomical piercings of a hoodie-clad Dennis Rodman is making the suits shudder but sport again surfaces as the ideal platform for meaningful engagement in the game of life.

Consequently one can argue the differences between Hawke's Bay schools and soccer clubs should be less complicated in the scheme of things.

Or is it?

Perhaps the saddest part of the club versus school impasse is that the code has disenfranchised itself from its youth.

Like a dysfunctional family, the high schools have severed ties from parent body Central Football amid demands of accountability over high costs of running their competitions.

Hastings Boys' High School have aborted plans this year to go it alone under the umbrella of Havelock North club in the men's premier Hawke's Bay winter league.

HBHS believe city clubs are hindering their schools.

Injuries, player burnout, picking up bad habits from men and truancy on game days are some of the points of difference.

I see merits in both sides of the argument.

When you enter a men's league then man up because if you are worried about tackling then remain in the boys' competition.

No doubt, you'll always find meat-heads caught up in a false sense of bravado every season.

Teenagers do become lethargic but soccer's representative season running into summer is in itself a recipe for burnout with harder grounds and intense heat.

Maycenvale coach Ritchie Howard's suggestion of schoolboys playing midweek to avoid two games on Saturday (one for the club) makes sense.

HBHS coach Tony Simons' concern over games finishing in darkness also rings true but it need not be a hurdle.

Principals, for argument's sake, can let players knock off school at 2pm to finish their game before dusk.

Besides, diligent high schoolers sit up until midnight most nights completing their homework, so finding a few hours to catch up shouldn't be an issue or become a motivational device.

Alternatively, teachers can allocate work for the players to start an hour earlier on game days to catch up on the afternoon classes.

Footing it with men is also a two-edged sword.

Communicating on the field isn't a forte for the cellphone generation, whereas men are vociferous. Those not physical or vocal won't survive but playing alongside men can help teens build confidence.

In defence of HBHS, children can pick up bad habits from clubs who often have coaches from yesteryear who are content with planting fresh, young legs to do the hard yards while the "oldies" find comfortable perches.

Bereft of ideas, it's not unusual for club coaches to instruct youngsters to hoof long balls or take pot shots at goal from 25-30m out.

Wellington Phoenix is a testimony to poor prophecy in the country's catchment areas.

That is, of course, not to say teachers are necessarily any better as coaches, especially if it's part of their rostered duties at school.

So is it school or club first on Saturdays?

The loyalty lesson takes a hiding here because no matter how much you tell teenagers fresh fruit is better than deep-fried battered fish or chicken, fast food will invariably seduce the taste buds by default.

The glory of playing for a men's club team, albeit off the bench for 10 minutes, in a different city is like the lure of junk food.

It's pointless legislating against it because you can force elite players to represent their schools but little is gained if their heart is not in the collective.

Schools know better than to make athletics and swimming carnivals compulsory for seniors because students who don't see much merit will inevitably not feel well enough to drag themselves out of bed come the big day.

Simons makes a pertinent point in alluding to the lack of school impact in the Hawke's Bay United summer franchise team.

I hasten to add, it won't get any better with the impasse between the schools and Central Football.

Not recommending a talented schoolboy to attend regional representative trials because of political differences is a lose-lose situation.

Howard rightly points out youngsters should simply be encouraged to enjoy the game and not forced to make choices.

The master plan, therefore, must be for the parent body to do its utmost to build meaningful rapport with schools to ensure they are singing from the same song sheet for young to flourish in the beautiful game.


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