Bag Packing, Social Skills and Youth Rugby

Youth rugby isn’t what it used to be in my day. We lived up to stereotypes. Not so nowadays, must be the Sam Warburton influence. Saturday was all about learning………… social skills for under 16’s rugby players…..unlikely I know.

My sons under 16’s team are going on tour and the fund-raising is as much a part of the ritual as the ‘shaving off the left eyebrow’ antics on the tour itself. Now there are a couple of options available for the fund-raising:

  • Easy. I cough up our share of the cash quietly and we go away on tour no stress, no trouble.
  • Moderate.  Wife and I attend a few fund-raising events at the rugby club (quiz nite, band nite, casino nite, horse racing nite, bingo nite etc etc). Have a few drinks and hand over the cash via a less direct route. It works and we have a bit of fun. Oh, and don’t forget the raffle tickets, of which I usually buy 95% of our allocation.
  • Hard. Involve teenage son in the fund-raising. A massive challenge to amuse them usually involving some sort of physical activity.  Once again I hand over the cash, usually through ‘sponsorship’ this time.
  • Very Hard. Get the boys to actually do something that involves contact with civilians. Something where they deliver a service for which real people will actually hand over cash. Nightmare. Over the years I’ve experienced the difficulties of charity car washes, and the insurance claims for damage to the vehicles.
    Thankfully now banned. Unfortunately it has been replaced by something even worse, SUPERMARKET BAG PACKING.

This was the scenario on Saturday. Me, rushing up and down the checkouts of the local supermarket like some deranged motivational coach crossed with a cheer leader.
A bunch of 15-16 year old rugby players struggling with the emotional torture of engaging with complete strangers, and sometimes actually talking to them. By the end of it I was drained by constantly repeating; “maintain eye contact, smile, be polite and don’t put the tins on top of the cream cakes” (yes it does happen).

In the end it was a massive success. A few quid raised for the tour kit fund, happy shoppers and the boys pleased they had got through it.

One thing will stick in my mind though. Lots of people were great, talking to the boys, asking about the tour and wishing them well.  A few were really horrible though, quite aggressive in their refusal of the offer to pack their bags. Worse still were those who completely ignored the boys. This wasn’t without its benefits thought.

On the journey home it prompted some reflections from teenage son about why people behave the way they do, and that being polite and friendly doesn’t cost you anything.   A lesson in social skills indeed.  I did suggest that I should speak to the school and get them to put bag packing on the syllabus for Personal & Social Education (PSE) lessons.  Unfortunately that’s step too far and apparently a very stupid idea. Well I tried.

So what’s the PONT?

  • Getting face to face with customers and trying to provide a service is really hard
    emotional work.
  • Good eye contact, smiling and being polite gets you a long way in bag packing, and probably many other activities.
  • Getting out of your comfort zone can be beneficial, if under 16’s rugby players can deal with it, anyone can.

Just for my wife here’s the link to her favourite supermarket bag packing related You Tube video, Johnny the Bagger.  Watch if you fancy a cry.

Photo source:

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here:

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