African Journal for Physical Activity and Health Sciences

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Optimal development of rugby players: a case study

J.W.D. Rainsford, C. Burnett, W. J. Hollander, W. J. Hollander


The success of the 1995 Rugby World Cup highlighted and confirmed rugby as a professional career. Aspirant rugby players are increasingly exposed to developmental initiatives and programmes to facilitate their optimal development according to an envisaged professional profile. This study aims to investigate the social context and influences on such a development process. It advocates a multi-dimensional developmental paradigm that will address the holistic development of rugby players for a sporting career or other occupation after desocialization from elite rugby. In pursuit of a solution to the problem, a literature study was conducted to provide a relevant theoretical framework for the study and to identify and explore the social context of elite sports people within the global and highly competitive arena of sport. An empirical study was conducted among 40 contracted Vodacom players from the Golden Lions Rugby Union who completed structured questionnaires prior to a physical testing. The majority of players were between 19 and 31 years. Ninety percent belonged to the white population group and 10% identified themselves as ‘players of colour'. Studies, vocational training, social relations and socio-economic as well as environmental factors impacted on their preparation for and commitment to rugby as a potential career. Respondents also indicated the negative impact of perceived discriminatory practices, and the detrimental role of injuries in their careers. They indicated the main motivational factors, perceived value of developmental initiatives, the role of significant others and focused career preparation incentives and opportunities that served to equip them as professional rugby players. Descriptive statistics indicated a need for addressing the unique and contextual problems of these players and to facilitate optimal holistic development through a multi-dimensional, context-sensitive and professional approach.

Key words: Elite rugby, sport development, Golden Lions Rugby Union.

(Af. J. Physical, Health Education, Recreation and Dance: 2003 Special Edition: 68-77)

AJOL African Journals Online