I’ve been thinking of writing a blog post for a while and today seemed to be a good opportunity. Our team had been given the week off and this morning, while Ilse was preparing a healthy breakfast of cinnamon pancakes, I thought I would give it a try.
It might sound strange, entitled or even smug on my part but hear me out: Rugby players are people too. I know what you’re thinking. How can you say that? I’m not talking about your international sensations and World Cup Winners. I’m talking about all the other guys. The guys that work just as hard, has the same skill set but has been perceived as average or just hasn’t been given a chance.
A 22-year-old, earning a five or six-figure salary is pretty good wouldn’t you say? I agree. We get to travel the world. We experience different cultures. We sometimes fly business class and we get paid to do it too. It really is a dream job.
What most people forget however, is the extreme sacrifices you have to make to actually get a contract. When you show a little bit of promise at school-level-rugby you get sold the dream that you can, and probably will, become a Springbok one day. You get told that if you work hard enough, eat well enough, play good enough, recover good enough, you will one day get a chance at playing for your country.
For some, that means giving up the opportunity to study in order to work and train with a senior team. Others use a study scholarship and drop out as soon as they are recruited to join a senior setup. Think about this for a second. We can only earn this glamorous salary for a few short years and most of us have to enter the job market at the bottom in our mid-thirties. This is all assuming an injury doesn’t stop your career in its tracks much sooner, which happens on a daily, and assuming that a professional team actually wants to sign you and your particular skill set for another two years.
Never mind the fact that all players at some stage in their career, are harassed by the media or fans. Imagine sitting at your desk while doing your job with TV cameras pointed at you and a stadium full of spectators making sure that you do every single thing perfectly. If you don’t, your boss will immediately replace you while the commentator tells the onlookers exactly why. If you do have an off day the papers have a go at you, the fans want to replace you and you’re one game closer to being unemployed.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that this is a very humbling job. You try and work hard, be disciplined and give everything for six days a week. This job keeps me on my toes, inspires me to be better and regularly reminds me just how important my faith is.
So, be kind and compassionate to your local players. You might forget who we are ten years from now but remember that this is still a job and that ten years from now whether all our rugby-dreams have come true or not, that we’ll remember every kind or unkind word spoken about us.
Jacques du Toit