Dale Burden: Schools and sporting organisations need a better relationship

6 comments
Former headmaster of Mount Albert Grammar School Dale Burden responds to Chris Rattue's column on Auckland's woeful sports teams, stating it goes back to the poor relationship between Auckland sporting organisations and schools.

Dale Burden is principal of St Peter's School, Cambridge.

Chris Rattue's article is timely and sums up well the key points many have been talking about for a while.

I was Headmaster of Mount Albert Grammar School for a decade between 2006 and 2015. MAGS was regarded then and now, as arguably the best sporting school in the country. We enjoyed local and national success while at the same time developed a large number of talented sportsmen and women.

We played in tough competitions with liked minded and successful schools such as St Kentigern College, Auckland Grammar, Westlake Boys and Sacred Heart. These schools along with MAGS dominated local and national competitions and this year looks to be no different. So if Auckland can dominate the country at school level what happens later?

The answer I believe lies in the lack of genuine partnership and relationship with schools and the poor development programmes post school.

The inability of most Auckland sporting organisations to form meaningful relationships and partnerships with the top sporting secondary schools shows a complete lack of strategic thinking and leadership from those organisations.

I had more conversations with Auckland rugby over my decision not to opt into their "money making " scheme of streaming 1A live than at any other time. They never approached me to ask if we needed in assistance in the areas that matter ie coaches, players and resources.

Most of the sporting organisations in my view showed little respect to schools and their programmes. Netball and football were the worst in this respect. Their attitude at times bordered on arrogance as they showed little or no regard for programmes running at schools that are in fact superior to anything they do.

Surely a better and more strategic approach would have been to develop a close relationship with the school, get to know the coaches, players and build on retaining them in the sport in the region. They seemed to do everything and anything to undermine programmes and showed little recognition for the vital role schools have in identifying and developing talent.

So what happens when they leave school? Not a lot and that's the problem. During my time in Auckland I grew tired of the complete waste of secondary school talent by post school programmes that lacked quality and leadership and instead were disorganised, poorly led and filled with politics and other agendas.

Obviously there were exceptions but these were mainly talented individuals who were very much in a minority in their sports organisation and always had to report to someone else further up the chain. Usually these people moved on after years of frustration.

Post school player development should involve retaining your best talent and putting quality programmes in place. This involves quality selection and this is an area where there is much room for improvement in Auckland as the rest of New Zealand is full of top Auckland talent that somehow has been let go.

There is so much that Rugby, Football, and netball can learn from the top sporting schools. These are led and staffed by top people who not only understand how to run successful sports programmes but they understand young people and know how to get the best out of them.

Since moving to the Waikato and taking on the role of Principal at St Peter's Cambridge I have been amazed at the difference in attitude that sporting bodies have towards schools. The attitude of the key people that I have met so far particularly in Rugby, Netball and Football has been positive and engaging.

Their Mantra has been " how can we help". I have been impressed by post school programmes that focus and select on character and values, not just talent. They seem tuned into long term strategic thinking that includes schools and sees them as valuable stakeholders to work closely with rather than just on a diagram in their strategic plan.

I am convinced that if these sporting bodies that Rattue's article focuses on developed more effective and genuine relationships with the schools and dropped their superiority complex and were prepared to learn, this would help them become more successful in the long term.

- NZ Herald

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