BEN Smith, Maria Tutaia, Shaun Johnson, Winston Reid and Stacey Michelsen all started on a field just like the one down the road.
More than a way to stay active or sharpen up, sport is part of the fabric of growing up. There is much about Saturday sport that is deeply embedded in our thinking. Why oranges at halftime?
Why do you pull your socks up? What is the process for player of the day? None of the questions need answering, but serve as tradition over pragmatism.
The collective commitment of young athletes is such that whistles and hollering is audible throughout Whakatane on Saturday mornings. But the captivating reach of sport goes far beyond the bridge, the hill and the water treatment plant. They play up the valley, on the plains, under the mountain and on the coast.
To find out the intricate processes and the motivation for charging around frosty fields, sport reporter Adyn Ogle went to the experts.
In this special feature, five Eastern Bay children across five codes tell us their why and, their aspirations.
10 years old
Having fun is important for Summer and before her football games for Awakeri, she and a friend do a quick countdown, chest bump and yell “United”.
“I play because it is a cool sport and I like kicking the ball around with my friends.”
“You get fitness and ball skills out of playing soccer.”
“When I was a year one, it was the first sport I played and I have loved it ever since.”
“Our season is going good. We won our first game a couple of weeks ago.”
10 years old
Playing rugby league for the Putauaki Stags, Kawerau South School student Rawiri does not watch league on television. He prefers to get out on the field.
“I play because it is my hobby and I like running the ball into people and getting the try.”
“I like tackling the people low around the legs and making them knock the ball on.”
“We train Wednesdays and Fridays and we are undefeated this year.”
“Our team is so good because of our coach.”
10 years old
The Te Teko under-11 team is on a phenomenal unbeaten run, but Wheronui just likes how the game is played.
“My favourite part is being able to kick the ball and have fun with my team.”
“We have been undefeated for three years and haven’t lost a game this year either.”
“We train hard and work on team runs and moves.”
“One day I would like to be first five for the All Blacks.”
10 years old
Playing as a team is important for Leon on the hockey turf, and so is winning.
“I play for the Apanui Cobras and we have gone pretty well, but we have lost a couple of games.”
“I play hockey because I like using a stick instead of hands or feet.”
“Hockey is good for keeping fit and working as a team together”.
“I would like to play at the Olympics and I will need to keep improving and get better at passing because that is how you get around the players.”
10 years old
Kimiora has no superstitions or little tricks in her pre-game netball routine for Edgecumbe Primary School. She just wants to run.
“I have been playing netball since I was little and I play because I am competitive and I like challenging myself.”
“I get to run around and I like the feeling of the ball going right into my hands.”
“I like playing at centre because I get to run around heaps.”
“One day I want to play for the Silver Ferns but I will need to practise every day and go to every tournament they have.”
Opportunities key to future
FUNDAMENTAL skills are at the core of making champions says Eastern Bay primary director Exia Edwards.
The former Black Fern, who was part of three successful Women’s Rugby World Cup campaigns, has eyes on many junior sportspeople in her role with Sport Bay of Plenty.
Edwards said participation at tournaments was consistently positive.
“There are lots of development opportunities available to the youth with certain sports that have great coaches and systems in place to produce top athletes.
“There are athletes that have great commitment and drive to succeed. The most impact may also come from the fundamental skills that are delivered to school children at a young age.
“Fundamental skills set any athlete up to be able to participate confidently in any sport until they get to a stage where they have to hone in on a particular sport to master.
“I think we are lucky to have lots of safe spaces including the parks, waterways and the bush.
“Our environment is the perfect place to produce great athletes.”
Edwards said a number of opportunities needed to be provided to children to ensure a greater likelihood of having sport for life.
“There are benefits of sport which include social skills, fundamental skills, leadership skills, commitment, values and of course just keeping them away from screens.”
Important lessons learned on the field
A WHAKATANE psychologist believes sport plays an important role in personal development off the pitch.
Doctor Gabriel Rossouw said when young people play sport, they get much more than their dose of physical activity, but also important life lessons.
“Sport helps develop a sense of competence. The characteristics that it instils in you as a person are often what you need when the chips are down in life. That is when those experiences of character building emerge to keep you upright and forging ahead.”
Dr Rossouw also said it provided children with another family to be a part of. “It is important as part of growing up. It teaches you to tolerate frustration, to control impulse and channel energy into positive, co-operative endeavour.
“It also helps you develop perseverance and resolve and teaches you how to suffer. That is something our young people don’t do much of. In sport you suffer physically when you get hurt. You lose, you are called names and at times are almost bullied in sport. Sometimes you don’t get chosen to represent your team. Not getting your own way and having to work for things is an important part of that development.
Dr Rossouw said the competitive side of sport could also be a good thing for young atheltes.
“You could argue the need to be competitive in different ways. In its positive sense, if you are playing sport to develop your competitiveness and you give that free rein to compete, it installs a drive because winning does not come easy.
“You have to train and practise, it brings that resolve and long-term vision. There is no doubt that the stuff you experience in a team on the field, is what you take into life.
He also said having athletes to look up to was important.
“We do need examples of what we are projecting ourselves to being one day. We need people that stand out and we need good leaders.”