The next genera tion
Former All Black Kevin Senio has recently started at the NZRPA as a player advisor, focusing on secondary school-aged rugby players.
In my role, I have been visiting rugby-orientated schools and meeting with parents, teachers, students and other key people.
From those discussions we are in the process of designing and developing a programme that will focus on the following key areas: ■ Importance of personal holistic development ■ Awareness of some of the key risks and opportunities that young players progressing to the professional ranks will encounter ■ Guidelines on dealing with Agents, contracts, anti-doping, supplements, concussion, wagering etc ■ Importance of seeking good advice and making good decisions.
The programme will most likely involve past and current players sharing their stories. By using real examples from players who have built careers in the game, young students and parents can gain insight on what to expect if they are fortunate to enter the professional ranks.
We are increasingly conscious that expectations of both players and parents need to be managed. There is a need to keep things in perspective.
Parents and guardians can often appear to carry sense of urgency in regard to their children – they can be impatient for things to happen quickly.
The increased media attention at this level has added an element of pressure and heightened expectations. However, there is always a need to consider what is best for these young students. The priority always has to be the longer term. The statistics and evidence continue to show that not many players will carve out a career in the game - hence the need to reinforce the message of personal development, seeking good, trusted advice and making good decisions that keep multiple career options open.
We are aiming to deliver presentations at schools in the North Island over the next few months and work our way down to the South Island.
While these roadshows are largely about us informing young men about professional rugby, we also hope that the NZRPA will deepen its understanding of what's happening within schools and their respective rugby and education environments.
Perception and reality – in the case of individuals and the various environments - can be quite different. As we build experience in this fast-changing area, the more it becomes clear things are not always black and white.
The opportunities presented to young players are mostly outstanding, but they and their parents still need to understand all the details to maximise the chance they have and avoid disappointments that could have been avoided had they known more in advance.
We are particularly keen to ensure parents and students receive ample support to make good decisions around scholarship options. These can be superb opportunities for young men, but there needs to be an appropriate balance between education, personal development, rugby and family. Likewise, those responsible for managing schools' rugby environments are often well-meaning and determined for all of their boys to thrive. But sometimes they too need to be encouraged to promote the benefits of pupils maintaining balance and putting rugby in context within the student's overall development.