Reiko Ioane became the eighth youngest All Blacks Test debutant ever at the tender age of 19 years old. This was only 18 months after he made his debut for the All Blacks Sevens team as a 17-year old in Wellington in 2015.
Ioane is an exceptional talent, and while I never saw him play as a child – I would imagine his future in rugby was clear the moment he stepped on the rugby field from a very young age.
However this is not the case for every man that’s ever worn an All Blacks jersey – and certainly not for the majority of players.
Most that have pulled on the black jersey had to work their way up through a number of representative teams, eventually before selection into provincial rugby, then Super – and then if they perform on that stage, they might be lucky enough to play Test rugby.
All those players didn’t make it on talent alone. They worked hard, and they had the benefit of coaches and mentors that helped them improve throughout their careers.
However the sad reality is most players out there could have the potential to play professional rugby, perhaps even at Test level – but will never receive the coaching and guidance that will allow them to fulfil that potential.
While Reiko Ioane reached the pinnacle of Test rugby at the age of 19 years old, there are hundreds of players that have signed professional contracts before they’ve reached their 20’s. As the professional game continues to grow, rugby now presents a very real career opportunity.
But for those young players today chasing the dream – how many of them are getting the benefit of genuine coaching expertise? How many young players actually understand how much work they need to put in if they want to play rugby for a living?
The answer is very few.
And when players like Reiko are playing professionally from 17 years-old, player development through teenage years has never been more crucial.
Let’s face it – many coaches through teen-grades are not about to seriously improve the performance of any talented young individuals. They simply don’t have the expertise or position specific knowledge.
If your son loves his rugby, has shown signs of promise – make sure he gets the attention he deserves.
Don’t let genuine 1:1 coaching stand in the way of your son’s potential career!