Scotland coaches urge rethink on schools sport
March 8, 2000

Scotland coaches past and present slammed the lack of sport in schools today and urged the Scottish Parliament to rethink their strategy.

Both Jim Telfer and Ian McGeechan were present at the launch of the Scottish Rugby Union youth development programme the National Pathway at Murrayfield this afternoon. The project is aimed at maximising the potential of all school rugby players and maintain the current rise in numbers taking up the game.

The SRU have come up with a twin track approach which will allow the elite private schools to maintain their own competitions, with the rest of the country taking part in district competitions. Towards the end of each season, both will come together for national finals and, at under 17 level, a district championship from which the national side for the following year will be chosen.

But while the SRU development officers continue to spread their gospel across the country, both Telfer and McGeechan are convinced that much more could be done if the schools started to play an active part.

"It is interesting to note that in academia school headmasters these days are governed by league tables," said Telfer, himself a former headmaster, "yet they are not interested in tables for rugby or any other sport.

We have found that when public school children leave, they have usually reached their peak in rugby terms. The state school children are only halfway through their development. If we can make the state school children better we can go a long way to improving the performance of our national team."

The SRU development team has lobbied both Sam Galbraith, Scottish minister for children and education, and sports minister Rhona Brankin, who both expressed surprise at the lack of rugby being played in state schools. With parents reluctant to allow their children onto the streets to practise their skills as happened in the past, the SRU believes Parliament should start to take a lead.

"We want more people to start playing sport and the best ones to choose rugby," said McGeechan. "People talk about Australia and what they are doing in sport. At the moment they have 61 world champions and their whole culture as a nation has changed. They have lost the chip on their shoulder and no longer see themselves as a country stuck on the end of the earth. I'm convinced the vote to keep the Monarchy last year was largely due to the fact that they have proved themselves as a nation. The only way we can push this forward is by working together and make people realise what can be achieved."

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