Growing up in our society is a tough business for teenage boys, and it is being made all the more difficult for them by media images focusing on what is and what is not a perceived ideal body shape. Rugby is high on the list of sports that they enjoy and, naturally, many are very keen to play at the highest level, which these days, of course, is professional.
Surely there must be a responsibility on those who coach and promote the game to encourage youngsters to concentrate on speed and skills and not to worry too much about excessive weight training and “bulking up”.
Ambitious coaches who yearn for success for their own ends can cause great damage to young people through their obsession with the winning of matches.
I have had the pleasure of watching two fine school rugby matches this season and in both cases these were played in an excellent spirit, with emphasis on speed and skill.
However, I have also spoken to some parents of teenagers who are worried about pressure on their offspring to spend too much time weightlifting and possibly taking food supplements to further their rugby ambitions.
I am certain that Sam Chalmers, with his distinguished club and family, is in good hands and that he will be back on the rugby field in due course, but it is a shame that he felt compelled to do what he did.
As for the “Adonis complex”, I sincerely hope that the rugby authorities are aware of what goes on in the minds of teenagers when it comes to body shape and that they ensure good practices throughout the game in order to promote healthy minds as well as healthy bodies and skilful players.
Because rugby at the top level was amateur in the 1970s, we schoolboys for the most part only spent time in gymnasia for the purposes of building fitness and stamina; most of our time was outdoors honing our skills and exceedingly few of us rose to the top of the game.
Nothing has changed in the very small number who rise to the top of the game, but a very great deal more time is spent by all on altering body shape among young players. Is this really necessary?