Covid-19 has been a disruptive, nasty business which has impacted across the community and hit sport particularly.
From the All Blacks down to school sport we have seen disruption, uncertainty and a rather blind pathway taken by administrators to restore regular sport. This has too much had the look of “same old, same old” with bizarre sums of money coming into the picture to be used to shore up sports activities which do not in all seriousness +look like a new and refreshed plan.
One specific area which I have not understood for a few years has been the unwillingness to consider the development of sports programmes emulating the College Sport programme of the USA. This programme across many sports has major impact on the community and is a serious pathway for the development of young sportspersons.
New Zealand could consider a Kiwi College Sports Programme which would pathway from the high school sports activities through to a college programme in the universities and the major ITPs (Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics) in New Zealand. Initially there would be about ten or twelve licences issued across three conferences for a “season” that that was appropriately fitted in to the sporting years.
The advantages of such a proposal (which of course would challenge the old brigade of administrators) are obvious.
The suite of sports in such a programme could be the major sports – Rugby, League, Netball, Football, and Weightlifting for example – with growth of other sports being possible.
There would be equitable focus on both men’s and women’s sports (as in the US).
The key aims are development of high-level skills that would enhance the entry into the professional sports that follow would be a high priority and would gain from having an intake of people with just such a set rather than simply displaying some flair that blossoms in school sport but is not capable of sustaining a professional career.
The programmes would have a educational programme alongside – as happens in the US despite the tar that is brushed across the US College Sports programme which see only Sporting Jocks paid sums of money the bolster the reputation of institutions. This is not the case and the sports activities go alongside the academic requirements which must be sustained to remain in that programme.
Inevitably not all aspiring sports people make the grade and delaying the focus on sport until maturity increases would avoid the habit of discarding this group, characterised by shattered dreams and no future path to follow – a situation not unheard of in New Zealand secondary schools. In sport as in most activity, working to “get back to normal” after post-Covid does not mean returning to the same, opportunities follow from disruption must emerge.