A recent circular from Ministry of Education on reforms in school games has left many coaches and teachers wondering how to implement them, with some recommendations going against international standards.
For instance, the ministry has directed that sevens and 15s rugby be played at the same time.
The circular further stated that players who choose to take part in sevens will not be eligible to play in the longer version of the game. The policy makers have gone further, rightly, to limit the number of players in 15s to 20 per team while those in sevens to 11.
These changes will simply lock out talented players from expressing themselves in either code and schools from fielding their strongest sides at school game.
Why should one set of players be restricted to one code? Or why should a coach decide to focus on one code at the expense of the other?
These codes require players with different abilities, size and skills. The same players can also be cross code. We have seen some of the best sevens players wreaking havoc in 15s games and vice versa.
If a school decides to focus on sevens, what will happen to those talented players that can only play 15s? Sevens requires faster, agile and generally fitter players than 15s, which favours slower and heavier players, and has more tactical battles than the latter.
If for example, Maseno School decides to focus on sevens this season, what will happen to those talented 80-90kg kids that cannot play sevens rugby, but are monstrous in 15s battle?
How will they be noticed by national age grade coaches for drafting into Chipu? How will they develop their skills before joining club rugby?
Another interesting change in policy is reduction of players per team in the two versions. They have reduced the number of sevens players from 13 to 11 and 23 to 20 in 15s. This means that fewer specialised replacements will be named in a squad per match, a risky situation regarding the contact nature of the game.
For instance, a 15s game needs at least three specialised front row player in the squad, two forward players and at least two backs. The new changes will mean that the replacements will be eaten up by forwards, denying coaches opportunity for tactical changes later on in the game.
Well the ministry is within its mandate as the tournament organiser to dictate the number of player each team will present for different games, the question therefore is what informed this change in regulations?
World Rugby has in fact raised the number of players in a sevens match from 12 to 13 and in a 15s match from 22 to 23 due to what they called evidence-based safety concerns. It’s therefore mind boggling as to why ministry honchos have decided to reduce the number of players.
It also leaves one wondering whether the ministry consulted any one from Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association (KSSSA) on game needs and technical aspects before sending the circular. It seems that KSSSA and games teachers are just but bystanders in these changes.
The government cannot be thumping it’s chest that it’s embracing competency-based curriculum yet it’s co-curricular changes are anything but promoting competency and talent. Unless the new curriculum is just focusing on classwork alone and gives no attention to what students do after classes. If so, then it’s such a shame!
Those in charge of making these changes should at least consult respective federations for technical input instead of just sitting in boardrooms and just coming up with ad hoc regulations that don’t put the student’s talent at the fore. These regulations need a rethink before it’s too late.
We are looking at a situation whereby players will finish high school with underdeveloped skills and not ready for club rugby hence prolonging their development curve.
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