Rangatahi do not necessarily require a coach, they simply want to spend time with their friends and engage in a sport they love. Photo / 123RF
It is well-known that rangatahi (young people) face diverse barriers to participation in active recreation and sport.
This is corroborated by national research that highlights a strong decline in physical activity for this demographic and the unique needs they have.
So what motivates rangatahi to participate in active recreation and sport?
Overall, feelings of enjoyment, happiness and fun play a key role in young people’s positive physical activity experiences. This relationship flows both ways, with the benefits of being active having a positive impact on wellbeing and satisfaction.
Rangatahi who participate in physical activity have higher levels of happiness and are more likely to find concentrating on schoolwork easier after being active.
The importance of ‘fun’ in physical activity cannot be over-emphasised; it outweighs and counteracts the stress, emotional pressures, and social and family complications of young people’s daily lives.
A couple of good Tai Tokerau examples of what can be done to motivate young people to participate are highlighted below:
Just Let Us Play!
Volleyball has experienced some growth at Kaitāia College, becoming one of the fastest-growing sports in recent years. The school boasts two vibrant outdoor volleyball courts that are consistently filled with rangatahi during lunchtimes, particularly over the summer.
However, the beginning of 2023 presented some challenges, including the departure of the students’ coach due to other commitments. A replacement coach agreed to help out and conducted a few sessions to prepare the students for the Northland Secondary Schools Sports Mixed Volleyball Festival, an event that emphasises participation.
As the event day progressed and the coach spent time with the students, she discovered something profound: Rangatahi do not necessarily require a coach – at this level they simply want to spend time with their friends and engage in a sport they love. Sometimes, adults inadvertently complicate matters when, in reality, all the students desire is the opportunity to play.
When asked if they enjoyed the day at the volleyball festival they replied “Yeah, kinda – we loved it, but we just want to play more!”
Creating Spaces for Rangatahi
Kerikeri High School has been making efforts to provide outdoor spaces for students to move freely, particularly as a result of the Covid restrictions. The school is very proactive in gathering feedback from rangatahi about exactly what their needs are.
The new outdoor spaces that have been created in response to those needs are designed to encourage physical activity and provide a safe environment for students to enjoy outdoor activities. This includes outdoor volleyball courts and nets for rangatahi to lead their own games during breaks, which are also popular with the community groups who visit the school on the weekend to run their own games.
There are two netball courts with new hoops so now all trials and trainings can be held at school to reduce travel for students who previously had to do this elsewhere. Three basketball courts allow more students to practise their skills or play with their mates at lunchtime. Upgrading the main changing rooms is still a work in progress, however they have included cubicles to allow students privacy when preparing for PE classes and trainings.
By creating these outdoor spaces, Kerikeri High School are not only promoting physical activity and healthy habits among their students, but they are also providing a much-needed outlet for students to release stress and anxiety.