6 Apr 2021

Schools hoping for strong enrolment in sports after slump in 2020

10:52 am on 6 April 2021

Schools are hoping they can avoid a repeat of last year's record low participation rate in school sport.

Back view of male football coach in white COACH shirt at an outdoor football field giving direction to his football team

The School Sport New Zealand annual census found 48 percent of secondary students represented their school in sport last year (file image). Photo: 123RF

In Auckland, the city worst-hit by school lockdowns due to the pandemic, some principals have reported reluctance to get involved in activities while others say their students seem as keen as ever.

The School Sport New Zealand annual census found 48 percent of secondary students represented their school in sport last year - the first time the figure had dropped below 50 percent.

The lowest participation rates were 36 percent in Northland and 37 percent in Counties and Waitākere.

College Sport Auckland chief executive Mark Barlow said it was likely the pandemic had deterred some students from signing up for a sport.

"I'm sure there are individual families and individual students that have not returned to sport this year because of the fear of lockdowns," Barlow said.

But there were early signs this year would be better, he said.

"Our participation is up seven percent on the same timeframe last year.

"We're thrilled with the increase in participation and we hope that continues into term two and term three with our winter programmes."

Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault said the pandemic had made students and their families reluctant to commit to big events that might be cancelled.

"I've certainly seen that with what people were willing to get into around Polyfest, they weren't willing to commit to the level of engagement that was required," Couillault said.

The situation had not affected sports, though that might be because the competitions in the first term did not require as much commitment as some of those that happened later in the year, he said.

"I certainly would understand with the likes of netball, football, rugby, those things that play out over a couple of terms, yeah people are definitely thinking twice about whether they should invest their time and money in that if it isn't going to happen."

Glenfield College principal Paul McKinley said the lockdowns had been tough on students and he had noticed a reluctance to commit to extracurricular activities.

"We're noticing a massive concern about students being engaged because of the interruptions. For example, if you enjoyed sport last year with all sport being cancelled now this year the students are saying is it really worth getting involved because is it going to be cancelled like last year," McKinley said.

Part of the reluctance was financial, with parents unwilling to pay for fees and equipment for a sport they feared would not take place, McKinley said.

"With all that sport that was cancelled there wasn't recompense so some parents are now deliberating about whether or not they go down that pathway of spending money on sporting seasons."

The school was emphasising the importance of normality and hauora.

"We're absolutely assuming that sport will go ahead and we're encouraging our students to get involved," McKinley said.

"We know that with interaction and physical activity, it's far better for society and they have things to look forward to in the weekend."

A positive side-effect of the pandemic was that it had made students more aware of the world around them, he said.

"It's given them time to reflect, recharge the batteries and consider global issues and global focus. You could argue before lockdown students never knew what was going on in the world around them. I think they're now more aware, because they're far more conscious and following the 1pm updates from the prime minister and that sort of thing."