Young rugby hopefuls are being warned of the pitfalls of sexting, pornography, first dates after online hook-ups and offered positive relationship, finance and mental and personal health in a new handbook.
The Players' Own Handbook, created by New Zealand Rugby Players' Association, features a wide range of life skills to teenage rugby players; including age-grade players tipped for big futures.
Nineteen thousand copies of the book have been published; with it being distributed to teenaged players of both sexes at clubs and schools, as well as being used by the New Zealand Under-20 squad, provincial union academies and Super Rugby age-group camps.
Players' Association chief executive Rob Nichol said the handbook was a pro-active stance; with former MP and ex-Human Rights Equal Employment Opportunities commissioner Dr Jackie Blue – who has previously called out perceived negative aspects of rugby culture – describing it as "excellent".
"Helping young people in this day and age is not easy and a lot of people are involved in that. We believe we can play a little role in that too," Nichol told the Herald on Sunday.
"The handbook talks a lot about stop, think, act, reflect. Every time you make a big decision, stop, have a good think about it, act and then reflect on your decision process.
"We want people to apply that when they are in risky situations or having to make decisions. We don't want people to hurt themselves or others, we want them to make good decisions."
The booklet wasn't spurred by any specific incidents, but instead developed to offer teenage hopefuls all-important skills that would help them both on and off the field, Nichol said.
The publication features advice backed by specialists in many fields, including NetSafe, the New Zealand Transport Agency and various leading organisations offering support in terms of mental health, positive relationships and alcohol awareness.
Leading players have also contributed, including All Blacks stars Kieran Read and Sonny Bill Williams, Black Ferns legends Faio'o Fa'amausili, Portia Woodman and Sarah Goss.
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Nichol said one of the main themes of the booklet was that rugby was "what you do, it is not who you are". That included the importance of having interests away from the sport, including investigating other work or training options.
Young players who were grounded and well-rounded would tended to have "good characteristics" which would benefit them later in life.
"When the going gets tough they will come through. We won't be dealing with kids coming through with a sense of entitlement or thinking they have made it when they haven't," Nichol said.
He said the association realised players of any age would get embroiled in off-field issues regardless of the advice they had been provided.
"But it ain't the end of the world as long as you step up, own the situation and move forward positively," he said.
"If they don't want to do that, then obviously questions get asked if this is the right environment for them."
Blue described the nature of the Players' Association as book as "really impressive and totally pro-active".
She said it appeared its contents would also relate to any young New Zealander, regardless of whether they were a rugby hopeful or not.
She also commended the Players' Association for ensuring the book was a valuable resource for both male and females.
In September 2016, while she was the Human Rights' EEO commissioner, Blue and 24 other high-profile women co-signed an open letter to New Zealand Rugby (NZR) calling on it to address culture issues, including how women were treated.
The letter was sent after allegations of poor behaviour levelled at the Chiefs at a post-season function.
NZR chief executive Steve Tew responded that "recent events show we have not got it right".
Blue said she was encouraged by recent developments, including the Players' Own Handbook and NZR employing former Wellington Rape Crisis manager Eleanor Butterworth as its Respect and Responsibility manager.
"They are acting on what they said they would do," she said.
The School of Rugby
• Online dating: When you set up profiles on online dating sites, make sure you protect your personal information.
• Going on dates after meeting online: Always meet in a public place – it is safer to be around other people when you first meet. Sort your own transport – then you are in control and independent and can leave it if doesn't work out, and it means you're not dependent on the other person to pick you up so they don't know where you live.
• Sexting: If you have sent a nude and now regret it, contact the person and ask them to delete it – the quicker, the better.
• Consent: In New Zealand, a person is unable to legally consent if ... they are mistaken about the other person's identity ... pretending to be an All Black? That's not consent.
• Pornography: Porn is like the action movie of sex, you wouldn't learn to drive by watching The Fast and the Furious. Likewise, you want to know the difference between porn sex and real sex.
• Coming out: You're allowed to chose who to tell and when. If you think your family will disown you and rely on living at home, there is nothing wrong with choosing to wait until you are ready, though sometimes our families can surprise us by how great they are too.
• Social media: A general guideline to decide if something is okay to post is ask yourself this question: Would you be happy for your grandparents to see or read what you are about to post online? If the answer is no, then don't post it.
• Respect: Respect others, whatever their ethnicity, gender, age, background, religion, sexuality, ability level or culture.
• Dealing with disappointment: It is okay to be gutted, sad and angry, but it is not okay to take these feelings out on other people.
• Mental fitness: Focus on what you are grateful for each day. Each night, before you go to bed, write down three things that you are grateful for.
• Finances: Use a debit card instead of a credit card for spending. Pay with the money you have or say no instead of using a credit card and putting yourself into debt.
• Phone messages: Have a grown-up, sensible phone message. You never know who will call you.
• Nerves: Don't look at your phone just before you go in [for a meeting] as it brings your body into a curled position, which can be seen as showing lack of confidence.
• Hygiene: Instead of shaking hands in a team environment, fist bumps have proven to reduce the spread of germs.
- Source: Players' Own Handbook, New Zealand Rugby Players' Association.