Rugby, gentlemen playing a hooligan sport. As opposed to soccer where they are hooligans playing a gentleman’s sport. The code of the warrior.
As numbers of players dwindle in most places or at best stay stagnant we are perhaps missing a demographic of untapped potential. Should we in rugby make more of an effort to access the First Nations community in Canada?
It seems a natural fit to me. On the one hand rugby needs to grow, especially outside of the traditional power bases and bring people to our game who would not normally think of rugby.
On the other hand one does not have to look too far in many of our communities to see that many young First Nations people might gain from some of the positive benefits of rugby. Just a few of these benefits would include teamwork, competition, fitness, passion, discipline, and sportsmanship.
For me there are a couple of factors that make targeting higher participation rates for First Nations athletes a no brainer. The first is the relative lack of expense. Rugby does not have the same financial barrier to access that hockey or football present. Soccer is the most popular sport around the world and one of its big selling points is that it is so cheap to participate in.
But the single factor that could be rugby’s biggest draw with Canada’s First Nations populations is the “warrior culture”. One of the biggest challenges that young First Nations people face is the lure of street gangs. What do these gangs give to First Nations youth? They provide a sense of family, so important to young people who may not come from the most stable of homes. More importantly they provide a chance to act, in a perverted way, as warriors. Traditional First Nations culture gave young men numerous chances to become the warriors that they aspired to be. With hunting and going to war no longer a possibility for most young First Nations youth, they turn to gangs which in some ways act as a replacement for the warrior societies of their ancestors.
What sport has a better warrior culture than rugby? What sport better rewards courage and bravery? I believe we in the rugby community need to be reaching out to Canada’s First Nations to show them that there is still a place where a person can test themself and where “he who has shed blood with me is my brother.”