Boys Can Do Anything!
"The NCEA results imply girls are leaving boys behind at high school and statistics show an average 10 percent gap between their achievements."
"Boys find it harder than girls to learn to read."
"Boys aren't getting male teachers or teachers with empathy for boys."
"Boys do better socially, culturally and academically in single-sex schools where they need not compete with girls, or dread female ridicule of failure."
"The school curriculum and assessment have been feminised, putting boys at a severe disadvantage."
"Boys don't listen."
The above statements have been thrown around like a rugby ball in a game of Rippa Rugby. So what is going on? And how does this affect our game?
Boys are a big part of rugby and they are turning up to practices and expecting the rugby world to cater for their forever changing and demanding needs. Are we ready for them?
Do we cater for them?
In our junior grades, boys are a whopping 90% of our playing population. They rule and dominate our game.
So what's the big issue?
What we expect from our boys in society has changed over the years because the world has changed. Society offers boys a wider view of what it means to be masculine. It throws up all sorts of characteristics on television, in the media, in our schools and in our families. But are these the characteristics we want for our boys?
It wasn't that long ago that New Zealand boys had strong links to our national game. Boys could name all the All Blacks, kick a punt 40 metres and tackle ‘round the bootlaces'. Now they are more likely to name all the Smack Down wrestlers, kick a vertical leg extension into the air for a dance move and tackle the current Suduko puzzle in the newspaper.
These rugby links have also been at times condemned because of its former status among Kiwi blokes as the ‘rugby, racing and beer' culture.
But there is a problem with our boys. We are told these things. So perhaps as coaches, parents or teachers we need to think about the boy rather than the problem.
- Is reading a problem for boys or is it that he just hasn't found the right book yet?
- Do we really think that boys fail in coed schools because they are competing against females?
- Around 82% of primary school teachers are female, so does this affect the classroom as a place where boys won't develop into young men?
- Is the mess in the bedroom a failure for mothers or an organised layering of material so things are easily found?
- Is the toilet seat up so women can get frustrated or is it a time saving devise for those that frequent the bathroom.
- Do boys play a large number of individual sports at a very young age or do nothing at all because there are so many options now? Have they had less direction?
- Has Kiwisport taught skills for sports or taught teachers to watch the kids play a modified game?
- Are more boys playing soccer because it's a better game or is it because the New Zealand male constitution has changed?
It's all so simple. Schools are a clear reflection of our society and at times are given mandates within which they have to operate. School camps are a great example of this. It is near impossible to plan a school camp now with all the forms and guidelines in place.
Boys love to climb trees and hang upsidedown, but schools ban it because it's too dangerous and they might fall.
Boys love to make swords and guns to fight, but schools ban it and say we are not to encourage war.
Boys love to trade cards, but schools ban them because they create more internal wars.
Boys love to play bullrush, but schools ban it because their good clothes, which their mothers dressed them in, get ripped.
Boys love to write stories about wars, ghosts and other creepy stuff, but schools ban it and tell them to write about world peace, butterflies and horses.
Boys love clear rules, structure, boundaries and organisation. They love a methodical, unemotional method to learning. They don't want to come and talk about it, they want to do it! They don't want you to know what they think, because they will do it their own way anyway.
Try making a list of what boys can do at lunchtimes at school. How did you go? Does rugby fit into your list? Do we still play our national game at primary and secondary schools during lunchtime?
So, what happened?
The campaign "Girls Can Do Anything", initiated years ago to lift the ordinary educational accomplishment of girls, help them break societal and cultural chains and increase their life choices, appears to have been more successful than projected and the "Boys Can Do As We Say" campaign was quick to follow in its unofficial footsteps.
This is not to say the way boys are currently treated is to be blamed on a marketing campaign of the 1980's. It goes deeper than that. Revolutions with many faces can take issue with the boy demise and the number of pages here certainly won't give us any more enlightenment.
Boys don't need a teacher or coach asking them if they are behaving appropriately or if they are using an appropriate word. They don't need a conference on that and they certainly don't want to mediate with anyone either. For boys, someone acting like that can be toxic and lethal. Boys want to be boys. They don't want a friend or a buddy. They want a teacher, a father or a coach. They need someone to say, "this is how it is!" They need someone to say, "this is how we are going to do it!" They need someone to say, "I am here to coach you in rugby. It's not always what you want. It's not always a game. We will practise hard. You may enjoy yourselves."
We still need boys to seek their competitive tendencies and play contact games with passion. We need boys to enjoy the tribulations of school and testing nature of sports. We need boys to take a lead and lead others. In this age of mobile phones, internet, video games, conferences, mediation and self-discovery, there has to be a place for being a boy. And don't we want boys to play rugby?!