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TALKING POINT: Technology and sport


Technology and sport
By Sport Hawke’s Bay CEO Mark Aspden

April 2017

I read with interest the statistics on participation in sport by our region’s secondary school children in 2016. By and large the participation levels tend to remain at around the 60% mark. However we are certainly seeing a change in how our youth are participating. While some of our big sports (rugby, cricket for example) have been static or declining it is interesting to see some very rapid growth in sports such as Futsal, Orienteering and Waka Ama, none of which were available to me as a schoolboy. If you want to see a summary, it is on our website –

What we are also seeing is a decline in people attending live sport – the Lions tour will be a notable exception but by and large it is not too difficult to get tickets to international sporting fixtures of any stripe. While there may be a lot to be said for the days when capacity crowds attended club, provincial and international fixtures, realistically those days are long gone. Similarly people are less likely to belong to sporting organisations than they once were, they are less likely to volunteer their time to support a sporting organisation than they once were and they are less likely to live an active lifestyle.

Of course there is no single reason for this change, but one culprit that is often identified is the fact that there are simply far more ways to spend one’s leisure time. A significant factor underpinning this is the rapid advance in technology which means not only that people can watch more sport from home, but they have access to a whole range of on-line leisure activities.

It is easy to bemoan the impact of these advances and as the father of a fourteen year old I regularly do. However it is also entirely pointless because the advances are happening as we speak (or txt, or Snapchat, or Gram, or whatever) and if anything the rate of change is likely to get faster. So rather than look at technology as our enemy, we need to embrace it with a new way of thinking.

I have seen a few things over the last few months that convinced me that technology can be turned to “our” advantage. (I am not quite sure who I mean by “our” – but probably those who are aspiring to a healthy, active community.)

For instance last winter I saw dozens if not hundreds of children running all over the region in the trying to capture what were (as far as I know) entirely imaginary Pokemon characters. As quickly as that craze arrived it disappeared, but it was a great example of how technology could be linked to increasing rather than reducing physical activity.

At about the same time someone pointed out to me an App which gives you a workout in seven minutes. Depending on my mood on any given day I can be put through my paces by a Drill Sergeant, a cheerleader or a Kung Fu master. It costs me nothing and seven minutes a day is pretty easy to find, although I cannot claim anything like a perfect attendance record.

And if you have been roped in to coaching your child’s sports team, but don’t have any idea where to start, then YouTube is almost guaranteed to have a range of “How to” videos to suit every age group.

On a completely different tack, the Havelock North rugby club is using technology to create an alternative source of revenue by keeping club members informed of special offers from sponsors, for the benefit of all three groups. And golfers can now sort out the precise distance to the flag with any of a number of GPS devices that are out there, although I have not seen any stats on whether that actually helps the average golfer.

We are certainly going to be using technology and social media more and more at Sport Hawke’s Bay. Already we encouraging young people to send us shots of them being active, which we can then share with our community with the aim of inspiring their peers to follow suit.

So technology has certainly changed our lives and it is undoubtedly a factor in the changes in the way we engage with sport. However given the choice of complaining about it, or running with it, we have chosen the latter and my message to you all is to think creatively about how you can use technology to mobilise or motivate your own stakeholders. Expect to hear more from us on that.


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