Gabby Hinsliff of The Guardian reports: School’s out, and the boys explode through the gate like corks from a popgun. After a day of being forced to sit still, my eight-year-old son and his friends tumble over each other like puppies in a basket, fizzing with the need to run, jostle and fight. But what they really want is to play a game called Old Granny. The rules are sketchy but it broadly consists of rugby tackling each other to the ground at high speed – and they’d play all day if they could.
Although perhaps they shouldn’t be playing it at all. This week a group of doctors and researchers called for a ban on contact rugby – the kind involving tackling – in schools, arguing that kids should play the milder tag version instead due to the risk of serious injuries (from concussion through to paralysis). I can only imagine what they’d make of Old Granny.
There has inevitably been a furious backlash, with the anti-tackling campaigners portrayed as the sort of joyless fusspots who want to ban conkers. Cue much nostalgia for the days when children weren’t wrapped in cotton wool. They were also, curiously enough, the days when Jimmy Savile groped his way through TV audiences because in those days only joyless fusspots took sleazy backstage behaviour seriously.
It’s true that kids learn to judge risks safely only by taking controlled ones. That’s why parents spend the early years – when only a lunatic would indulge children’s inbuilt deathwish – painstakingly covering the sharp corners of coffee tables with soft sticky pads, only to spend the next few years trying to let go. Parenting older kids consists mainly of trying to hide your fear, while praying that the early lessons sank in.
So I’m all for climbing things and falling off them, wild swimming in rivers, cooking on campfires, playing out on your own, and for sport that helps children push their physical limits. But the rugby debate is about more than parenting styles. More…