Ever since their introduction by school sport websites, school sports rankings, especially rugby and cricket but across the board now, have drawn massive interest. And massive criticism.
One schoolboy rugby fan told me:
“Rankings should have no place in the schoolboy game, it’s tantamount to child abuse as it puts huge pressure on the boys, albeit subconsciously one might hope, by their coaches to perform.
“There is also pressure heaped on the players by their schoolmates, parents and Old Boys, whether it is chiding them for slipping in the rankings or what is a dangerous case of over-inflating fragile teenage egos by lauding them if their team (and, by extension, the boy’s prowess) is placed high on the rankings.
“What is also very very sad is that so many of my rugger mates take these rankings as Gospel truth, yet it’s surely obvious to these guys, who have a great depth of understanding of the sport as well as a passionate love of schoolboy rugger, especially our great KZN rugger schools, that by their very nature, these so-called rankings are flawed from the word go.
“Why do I say this? It’s very simple. You can’t measure teams unless they all play each other home and away in the same year.
“On top of that, some schools play dozens of matches a year, many of them against weak opposition, which guarantees easy ranking points, while other school first teams play far less matches but against much stronger opposition.
“It’s a bloody farce, yet schools do this on purpose as they use these rankings as massive marketing tools in order to attract the cream of the primary schools’ talent, and with the added carrot of sports scholarships and sports bursaries.
“The sports scholarships and bursaries is another animal that is wrecking the natural balance in our schools.
“Unscrupulous parents even play one school against another in bidding wars so they can squeeze out the biggest amount of tin – and yet again it’s a case of using unsuspecting kids as financial tools for reasons that having nothing to do with the kids’ welfare in the long run.
“Jono I could go on and on, so one last word from me: These are teenage boys – and I see it’s now rapidly infecting our talented young girls – these boys and girls might have precocious talent but; emotionally their talent doesn’t yet match their fragile self-esteem and self-confidence.
“Yet before you know it these kids are blown up as superstars – and the big crowds in the thousands that come to watch schoolboy rugby in particular, just inflate the supposition that they are going to earn millions as soon as they enter senior sport, but the reality is that that most of them will be playing in front of a man and his dog after school.”
“And what happens? They give up playing and join the varsity pub crowd.
“Jono, I’ve said enough for the moment, and your asking my opinion has put me in a bad mood before my day has even started!
“Seriously, Jono, I’m glad you asked because you’ve given me a platform to vent my frustrations as a father, an Old Boy and a passionate schoolboy sports lover.
“Rankings are a cancer, but how does one get rid of them before they do even more damage?”
I asked another passionate schoolboy sports lover, who is a high school parent, and probably the most balanced bloke I know, what his thoughts were.
He was in a rush but his carefully considered opinion is one that I respect, and that goes for just about anything and everything.
“Jono, to be very honest I like the ranking system. I could elaborate further when I have some time.”
So, two opposing views.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS TOPIC?
I’d love to know.