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Sport NZ expands school program into Waikato and Southland

Sport NZ is doubling the reach of its Play.sport pilot by adding 40 new primary and intermediate schools in Waikato and Southland in partnership with regional sports trusts Sport Waikato and Sport Southland.

“We want everyone in New Zealand to have a life-long love of being physically active because we know this results in people realising benefits such as better physical and mental health, cognitive function and educational achievement,” says Geoff Barry, GM of Community Sport at Sport NZ.

“Providing quality experiences for young people is critical to achieving a life-long love of being active. Play.sport is all about getting the experiences right in the primary and intermediate school settings where so much PE and physical activity take place.”

Launched in 2016 and currently operating across 45 schools in Upper Hutt and Waitakere, Play.sport seeks to improve the quality of PE and other physical activity by having expert staff working with schools to help them realise the value of PE and physical value – to schools and to young people.

Part of this is improving teachers’ ability to deliver quality PE. Play.sport connects schools with other providers within their communities, such as sports clubs, other schools and marae, to help provide a fresh approach to PE and other physical activity taking place within the school setting.

“20,000 kids and 1,000 teachers have benefitted from our work in Upper Hutt and Waitakere, and we’re excited to be expanding this important pilot,” says Geoff Barry.

“The 40 new sites will test an alternative, partnership-based model which seeks to make the most of existing local programmes and relationships by integrating the philosophy and approaches of Play.sport.”

Sport Waikato CEO Matthew Cooper says his organisation is excited about combining the philosophy of Play.sport with its successful Project Energize programme, which has been strongly supported by the Waikato District Health Board.

“We’ve been working into 240 schools across the Waikato Region since 2009, achieving some extremely positive results. Though aligned in their objectives, Project Energize and Play.sport are different approaches, and we’re excited about working with Sport NZ to see what can be achieved by combining the best of both,” says Mr Cooper.

Sport Southland CEO Brendon McDermott says the establishment of the Play.sport initiative in Invercargill has been welcomed by the region, and also received significant support from local community funders.

“Sport NZ has given us the autonomy to work alongside our community, including local funders, to identify how the greatest impact can be achieved. This goes much wider than traditional sport. Children are made to move, and this community will be supporting them to do just that with a holistic approach,” says Mr McDermott.

Play.sport is a cornerstone of Sport NZ’s work to improve the quality of physical activity available to young people, and through this help establish a love of being active that helps reduce the drop-off in participation which currently occurs during teenage years. By ages 12-14, 98% of young people in New Zealand are physically active every week, spending an average of 12.5 hours. By ages 18-24 only 75% are active each week and the hours spent has more than halved to 5.9 per week.

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