'You don’t always have to be the star.' Five life lessons kids' learn from playing rugby league.

National Rugby League
Thanks to our brand partner, National Rugby League

I’m about as sporty as a geriatric turtle with vertigo. Despite my inability to catch or hit a ball, I am big on my kids playing sport. 

And rugby league gets a double thumbs up from this uncoordinated mum of two. Not just because it inspires kids - both boys and girls - to stay active and healthy, but because it teaches them these valuable lessons about life. 

Here are just a few: 

1. You don’t always have to be the star. 

Community rugby league doesn’t emphasise winning at the expense of a child’s enjoyment. While it’s still competitive, the focus is on creating an inclusive environment where every member of the team has a chance to develop. 

For kids aged 5 to 15, there are policies like the Dummy Half and First Receiver vest rotation that ensures every young player has a chance to shine in a key position. From passing the ball to supporting the ball carrier (being ready to receive the ball), kids are introduced to the principles of teamwork – respect, support and collaboration. These will be vital as they grow into well-rounded teenagers and adults. 

2. You won’t always win.

Having two boys who are only 18 months apart – aged 6 and 8 – means there are a few brawls in our house over who won what. From board games to sprints down the street, heated debates erupt over who just did something dodgy to come out on top. It’s one thing to tell kids that winning isn’t the be all and end all of life, it’s another thing for them to internalise that message through sport. 

In rugby league, your kids' team won’t always win. And that’s ok. In fact, when you’re doing something you love, there can be a heck of a lot of joy in coming second. 

3. We’re all gloriously unique.

As our kids grow up they learn more and more about who they are, including their strengths and weaknesses. Our job as parents is to help them along that path of self-discovery. Because if you don’t know yourself, how can you trust and love yourself, amiright? 

Jacqui with her sons. Image: Supplied.

When playing rugby league, kids learn how to collaborate with others, communicate without words and trust their instincts. The game unveils their strengths and the personality traits that make them gloriously unique. That kind of self-awareness gives them the clarity to identify and achieve goals that truly matter to them. It’ll also help them realise that strength is not just physical, it comes in many different forms. 

That's why rugby league is also an excellent choice for girls. It has some different elements to more traditional girls' sports, and emphasises different abilities. No matter what, there's a chance for diverse kids to shine.


4. You’re never too young or inexperienced to have a crack.

Too often we stop ourselves from trying something new because we worry that we lack the skills, maturity or knowledge to succeed (hello imposter syndrome). I don’t want my kids to limit themselves before they’ve even tried.

The League Stars introductory program encourages kids of all shapes, sizes, personalities and skill levels to give rugby league a try (pun intended) over 4 to 6 weeks. There’s no contact so no need for kids to feel daunted. It’s all about meeting new friends, learning the basic rules and having a whole lot of fun. And if they love it (which they will), they can go on to join their local club. 

5. Rules are part of life and they’re there to keep you safe.

While rugby league might look a little full-on when you watch big matches on tele, the junior league has a Safeplay Code that focusses on safety and good conduct for all participants. 

The code outlines the rules the kids have to follow, like not tackling above the armpits and not pushing or pulling in a scrum. By following these rules, kids learn to respect and protect their friends on the field. They also learn that life comes with rules and those rules exist to keep people safe. As my boys get older and start to become more independent (for example, getting their driver’s license), I know this will help them respect rules and make good decisions. 

As a kids' sport, rugby league certainly has a lot going for it. We all grapple with how we can raise kids who are emotionally connected, empathetic and able to meet the many challenges life will throw their way. Rugby league builds their resilience in a fun, interactive and team-focused way. 

It's also a sport that celebrates the involvement of parents. From encouraging parents to volunteer at their local club, to the age-old tradition of bringing the whole family to watch a game for a fun day out, rugby league is inclusive and builds a community. 

The lessons go way beyond the sports field, helping our kids become good human beings. As parents, that’s what we all wish for.

National Rugby League
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