'If we're not careful how we coach, kids will get hurt'
As a rugby father and coach of the under 11s at Clontarf Rugby club in Dublin, Shane Meehan believes player safety is now hugely important. His son Matthew is on the team and he also has a son Andrew on the under 9s at Clontarf.
He says coaches at his club now do the SAFE rugby courses, so that if a child has concussion or any other injury, they can manage the situation. When boys have a bang on the head and suspected concussion, they have to stop playing for a minimum of 23 days.
When Shane looks at modern rugby as a parent, he is concerned at the speed and size of some players in the professional game.
"That is what puts off parents. They worry that as their kids grow up they will be more exposed to that kind of game."
Shane says that if a child is taught at a young age how to tackle effectively and how to be tackled and react in a certain situation, they will be better off.
"It may look gruesome from the sidelines, but when it is done right, it is done okay."
To him and many other parents, the area that is of the most concern is the high tackle. Players are more at risk of concussion with high tackles, because they are more likely to suffer blows to the head.
"A lot of serious concussion cases have happened in the last few years because players at the senior level have not been coached properly all the way through in how to tackle lower. Because the speed and size have increased, the impact is worse," says Shane.
"We want kids to enjoy rugby in a social environment. If we are not careful about how we coach children they will end up getting hurt and walk away from the game. We don't want that."
At Clontarf, the game is hugely popular, and there are 60 players in the under 11 squad.
As a father, Shane has no doubt that his sons benefit from playing the sport. "The kids learn a lot from rugby. They get the physical exercise and have an outlet other than the computer screen.
"With any team sport they get a sense of camaraderie. My son gets a broader social contact through his teammates."
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