School of sport with TIM MIDDLETON
IT is an interesting exercise to see how point-scoring in rugby has changed over the years. In the very early years, a team did not score any points for recording a try, but it only served to give them a chance to score points by way of the conversion.
Not long after that though, by 1876, a try was awarded one point before it was increased to being worth two points in 1891, though the successful conversion was worth three points, as was a penalty, while a drop goal gave a team four points.
A short time later it was changed again, whereby, a try was worth three points and a conversion two points, while it took another eighty or so years before the value of a try was increased to four points (in 1971) with the conversion downgraded to two points, and then further increased to five points in 1992. Since then, most leagues have awarded a bonus point for a win where four tries were scored in a match.
The thinking behind such changes presumably comes from the desire to make the game of rugby more attractive and exciting for the spectators — less a game of kicking and more a game of running. So now teams face a difficult decision as to whether they go for an easy, relatively safe three points from a kick at goal at a penalty or for a possible seven points by going for a try (starting from a tap kick, scrum or lineout) and conversion.
The fact is there is a much greater reward for tries. Of course, the attempt to score a try may fail and the team may rue not going for the safer, but less rewarding kick at goals; however, they equally may be left to wonder if they may have got more points if only they had gone for the try instead of the kick. If they did not try, they would never know.
It is interesting to note these changes because they reflect important truths in life for our children to learn. This is that there is far greater reward for children if they are only prepared to try; they have the chance to achieve more if they are only willing to try.
There will be enormous exhilaration and excitement if the try works, but if they never really go and try, they will never really know what might have been. There is no penalty, however, if they do try, but fail. Indeed, if they keep trying, try after try after try, they will reap an important bonus point — namely, that they have learned something even more valuable in their efforts. It is all about being willing to step out of the comfort zone, of not playing safe but rather taking the risk in order to maximise the opportunity.
The fact is — if going for the try line works, then the team has benefitted with more points and learned much in doing so; if the attempt was not successful, then they will also have learned a great deal. It becomes not so much a win-win situation, but a learn-learn situation, which is far more important. The benefit comes from trying, from trying again, trying something brave, trying something carefree, trying something different. As Michael Jordan, the legendary basketball player out it, “I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying.” Our children need to learn that lesson.
The ‘greatest try ever’ is generally accepted as one scored by the Barbarians team of international players in a match against the All Blacks in 1973; the move started on the Barbarians own try-line when the team ran back to collect a kick ahead by the All Blacks, and then proceeded, through a series of astonishing side-steps, quick passes, support off the ball and strong running with the ball, to go the whole length of the field. Not many teams say they will try to score a try when they are actually on their own try line! It was certainly worth a try, though! Children, be prepared to try.
We might argue that a team only penalises itself by kicking a penalty, as it limits what it can achieve. They say that, “Try” plus “oomph” equals “triumph”. As George R.R. Martin in Game of Thrones put it: “A bruise is a lesson… and each lesson makes us better.” The old proverb applies itself here too: “Fortune favours the bold”. It does not favour the old, the cold, the fold, but the bold. It is about being rash, brash, brave and bold. Then there is another saying: “who dares wins”; those who dare may not win the match, but they do have a chance and they will certainly win the respect of opponents, team-mates and spectators alike in trying. Rugby with loads of tries is exciting to watch and to play; life with loads of tries and attempts is exciting and beneficial. It is not a matter of getting kicks out of life; it is a matter of giving things a try. Game on!
Tim Middleton is a former international hockey player and headmaster, currently serving as the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools. Email: email@example.com