Research: NZ school rugby teaching lacks character, values

New research from the University of Canterbury reveals that rugby in New Zealand secondary schools has no clear educative or social intention, focusing on building technical skills rather than developing character, social skills or resilience.

University of Canterbury (UC) researcher Dr Blake Bennett’s original doctoral study investigated both New Zealand and Japanese secondary-school rugby environments to examine the influences and intentions of their coaching.

Interviews with secondary-school-level rugby coaches has revealed that the long-established objective of using rugby as a vehicle for character development was not at the forefront of the New Zealand coaches’ minds, according to Dr Bennett.

“With New Zealand coaches, their focus appeared to be placed on skill development and discipline with no overt mention of the types of social and cultural learning that, historically, has been used to justify rugby as a sport offered in secondary schools,” he says.

“In contrast, the Japanese coaches suggested that character development, tenacity, and a range of social benefits were the primary focus of their coaching approaches.”

Dr Bennet says his research poses the question: what is rugby’s relevance in secondary school/schoolboy development, if it does not target a learning outcomes beyond a physical level?

“The potential for participation in such sports could offer more social and cultural development of New Zealand’s young males,” Dr Bennett says.

“For instance, learning could focus more on leadership, cultural awareness, social interaction, coping skills under pressure and in the face of defeat, and so on. However, without explicit mention of these potential learning outcomes, the literature strongly suggests that such learning will not be naturally transferred to players. Instead, the notion of sport participation becomes limited to technical ability.”

Dr Bennett, guided by Professor Ian Culpan and Associate Professor Jeanne Kentel, of UC’s College of Education, Health and Human Development, recently earned his PhD at the University of Canterbury with this research.

With consideration to the high profile of rugby in New Zealand, and the growing esteem and status of rugby in Japan, Bennett says that it was also important to investigate the historical and sociocultural (social) influences acting on rugby coaches in secondary school coaches and players.

“I was keen to uncover the types of learning that rugby coaches of this age level intended that their athletes will gain from the rugby experience.”

Dr Bennett speaks, reads and writes in Japanese and conducted all the interviews in Japan and New Zealand himself.

About the research:

Analysis of data from both Japan and New Zealand secondary school rugby coaches revealed several interesting findings in his comparative study of coaching pedagogy in Japanese and New Zealand high school rugby, according to Dr Bennett.

Japanese coaches emphasised what they termed “seishin” – an ideology that stresses holistic education and the cultivation of the mind through harsh physical practices – as a principal philosophy underpinning their coaching approaches. In an extracurricular setting that often requires players to attend training up to six or seven days per week, it was suggested that this seishin ideology was a way in which to encourage a vigorousness, positive attitudes towards hard work, and overall vitality in the young men in their squad. They suggested that, ultimately, the rugby experience at secondary school age would fulfil the objective of ningen keisei – or character development – that would in turn lead to socially balanced and tenacious young men, ready to contribute to society.

Conversely, the New Zealand data revealed a strong focus on developing correct technique and skills. To this end, many coaches attempted to maintain control of their sessions, and few were willing to break away from traditional coaching approaches to allow more player empowerment. This is significant as many initiatives in the field of sport coaching and rugby in New Zealand have emphasised athlete-centred approaches that aim to empower players to make their own decisions about their training and learning. Coaches interviewed in New Zealand spoke much less frequently about development beyond the physical or technical domain, and instead, communicated their intentions as a coach to develop technical proficiency for the purpose of safety and strategic ability.

Congratulations to Staff of the Year Award winners

On Friday, 23 September, the Staff of the Year Awards ceremony was held at the UCSA Event Centre.

These awards celebrate all staff at UC who make a difference in students’ lives.

Congratulations to the winners and to UCSA for their efforts with this event.

SOTYMontage 2

  • Lecturer of the Year (Grand Award): Alessandro Palermo (pictured above)
  • Administrator of the Year: Annie Homewood
  • Technical Staff of the Year: Garry Cotton
  • Supervisor of the Year: Una Cunningham
  • Lecturer of the Year – College of Business and Law: Steve Agnew
  • Lecturer of the Year – College of Engineering: Alessandro Palermo
  • Lecturer of the Year – College of Arts: Mike Grimshaw
  • Lecturer of the Year – College of Science: Ian Shaw
  • Lecturer of the Year – College of Science: Travis Horton
  • Lecturer of the Year – College of Education: David Winter
  • Great Character of the Year: Alessandro Palermo
  • Guiding Hand of the Year: Nicki Dabner
  • Pink Cardigan Award: Christina Stachurski
  • Phylogenetic Tree Queen Award: Tammy Steeves
  • Sharpest Hog of the Hedge Award: Heidi Quinn
  • Greatest Fruitburst Thrower Award: Richard Lobb


Refresh your Customer Service Skills


Refresh, explore and discover new skills in our Delivering Service workshop.

When: Monday 17 October

Time: 9am – 4.30pm.
Registrations are closing tomorrow.

If you are new to UC or new to the role of Delivering Service and customer interactions, then I would highly urge you to join in the training.

This is the last Delivering Service workshop for 2016, and we may not run another until mid 2017. Don’t miss out. Register now.

Feedback from previous sessions has told us that this is viewed as a great course and introduction to the world of customer service at UC. Staff have also told us that they learn a lot from the other participants about other areas of the university, and it helps in their understanding.

Not the course that you are looking for? Please visit our Learning and Development intranet page to view our courses/workshops and programmes.


Tetanus vaccinations available now

Tetanus shots are available now at the UC Health Centre for our enrolled patients who are aged 45 and 65 years.

The vaccine is free but there is a $10 charge for the nurse service.

The Government encourages people to have these vaccines at this time of life as childhood protection is usually depleted and the risk of tetanus is not. Those who are a few years beyond these designated ages are also eligible.

What you need to know

Tetanus is contracted through puncture wounds or those contaminated by soil or animal faeces. These wounds can be quite trivial, for example rose thorn pricks. Hospitalisation of four women over 60 for tetanus in 2013 shows the need for protection in adults who often think these risks belong to younger people.

Patients enrolled at UC Health are invited to see us. Please phone first to book a nurse appointment, or for more information, phone: 364 2402