Sport Waikato boss Matthew Cooper is confident that a new region wide strategy is the best way to get more people in the region fit and active, as well as improving capability within sport, recreation and physically activity in the Waikato region.
Moving Waikato 2025 is a new strategy aimed at addressing the dropping numbers of participation in sport and recreational activity in the Waikato.
According to the numbers, 54% of Waikato Adults (age 16 +) met the national physical activity guidelines in 2007. In 2016, that figure sat at 45%, and the overall cost of inactivity on the New Zealand health system is significant and rising.
Another problem for Sport Waikato is the region’s growing population. By 2030, population in the Waikato is expected to be 470,000, an increase of 16%.
Future proofing and provision of facilities in partnership with regional authorities is important for Sport Waikato, so that future populations can play and compete in sport.
“Back in 2014 we had a meeting with Sport New Zealand and we spoke a lot about what we’ve done but there wasn’t a lot about what we are going to do in the future”, Sport Waikato’s CEO Matthew Cooper said.
Lifestyles are changing and people don’t have as much time as they used to. In the past ten years alone, society’s mode of operation has changed more than it did in the previous century. This change is for a variety of reasons; not the least of which is the advances in technology and a greater shift toward online connectivity.
To counter this, Sport Waikato facilitated the development of the Moving Waikato 2025 Strategy in partnership with stakeholders.
“People are realising that if they can get out there and have a workout, they don’t need to only sign up to a club and pay annual subscriptions, informal options are also real and available”. Cooper said.
The plan focuses on three strategic priorities. The key areas of focus to grow participation in sport and recreational activity are Young People, Women and Girls, Maori, Rural Communities, and Aged Populations.
The slogan for the Moving Waikato 2025 strategy is ‘Together We Achieve More’ and encourages “Doing the work for the betterment of the people”.
The other two strategic priorities aligns to Building Communities (growing capability in the sector) and providing Regional Leadership. A deliberate focus on partnerships to leverage and achieve more wins. But it goes deeper than that too.
Cooper believes that the landscape of sports for young people has changed rapidly, and potentially is creating a negative impact on young aspiring Waikato athletes/citizens of the future.
“Early specialisation has crept into schools, right down to the 12 and 13 year olds, that is wrong”, Cooper said. “There are some alarming stats that show those kids who specialised early don’t go on to continue playing sport once they leave high school. Cooper added.
Numbers show that only a small percentage of young teenage boys and girls in New Zealand schools will go on to play professional sport. The challenge for Sport Waikato, and other entities around the country, is to not only find a channel for this small portion of athletes to excel but also a variety of formal and informal options for the majority to increase participation numbers.
Sport Waikato will work alongside, sport, recreation, tertiary, education, health, local iwi, and local government to implement Moving Waikato 2025 over the next ten years.