The 2019 School Sport NZ census released this week shows that sport continues to remain an important part of school life. With more than half of our students (51%) pulling on a jersey to represent their school with pride, school sport provides thousands of opportunities each year for young people to have positive sporting experiences, learning to relate to others, to participate and contribute as part of team and to develop essential skills for life.

Netball, with 27,000 students, remains the most popular sport in our secondary schools with Basketball (25,000), Rugby (24,700), Football (23,274) and Volleyball (17,635) rounding out the top 5. Amongst the big improvers since the 2018 School Sport NZ Census are Mountain biking up 25% to 2200 students, Waka Ama (17%, 2600), and Orienteering (16%, 2300).

However, despite the range of opportunities expanding considerably over the past 10 years, the percentage of students engaging in school sport has remained relatively stable, between 54% and 51%. This suggests the new offerings are not attracting new participants and that, while the current school sport structure absolutely suits the needs of half our students, there are challenges to be faced in ensuring more students are able to enjoy the physical, social and mental benefits that quality team sport can develop.

And while the data shows that more than half of our boys (55%) represented their school, this was not the case for girls with less than half (47%) engaged. The fact that this gap is the largest it has been in the last 10 years also presents the school and sporting sectors with challenges in providing sporting opportunities that are attractive to our young women.

Teacher coaches should perhaps be put on the endangered species list with the numbers continuing to decline at around 1% annually with 16% of teachers coaching a school team in 2019. While this seems like a slow leak, in actual numbers that represents almost 700 teachers lost to coaching over the past 5 years. Continuing at this rate of decline poses a real threat to quality school sport and teacher coaches are in need of protection! In partnership with Waikato University, School Sport NZ have recently completed an extensive research project into the issue and, along with Sport NZ are currently unpacking the findings to inform strategy in an attempt to address the decline.

Regional Sports Directors have been provided with detailed regional School Sport NZ Census data and National Summaries can be found on the School Sport NZ website at

Article added: Friday 07 February 2020


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