In November, Sport Waikato hosted the inaugural Growing Connections Through Play, Active Recreation, Sport and Curriculum Conference – a capability building event for primary, intermediate and secondary school principals, teachers, sports coordinators and sport staff as well as those leaders working in community sport and recreation settings (e.g., regional sporting organisations (RSOs) and clubs).  

Hosted at Claudelands Event Centre in Hamilton, the day was first of its kind in the Waikato and was designed to challenge thinking about the delivery of play, active recreation, sport and physical education as well as to promote connection between sectors, organisations and individuals who provide physical activity for the Waikato region’s tamariki (children) and rangatahi (teenagers).  

In the Waikato region, many tamariki and rangatahi are still not active enough to positively impact their wellbeing, however 63% indicate they have a desire to participate more. Sport Waikato’s partners (e.g. RSOs, primary, intermediate and secondary schools) are keen to understand how they can better support and engage young people in physical activity of all kinds. The conference represented a way for cross-sectorial conversations to begin about how best to support the physical activity aspirations and experiences of Waikato’s young people. 

With 270 attendees, the conference was well received with overwhelming positivity being expressed by the sector regarding the conference concept and programme, complete with 14 different sessions catering to the breadth of roles and responsibilities in the room. The day featured speakers spanning topics such leadership, courageous change, play and play-based delivery, integrity and inclusion, talent identification, parent support in sport, education outside the classroom, youth voice and the potential of technology for engaging young people in physical activity, before rounding off with a session designed to help attendees unpack their learnings and make commitment to change in their own contexts. Highlights from the day among attendees, included:  

  • “Networking time and space to think” that the day provided,  
    ​“So many options of speakers...[and] the challenge and different thinking that the speakers invoked.”  

Overall, attendees enjoyed the range of topics, speakers and sessions that were provided for them on the day, as well as the chance to open their minds to new ways of providing tamariki and rangatahi opportunities to be active. 

Attendee commitments from the day included:  

  • “Incorporating physical activity through play that is fun and engaging”,  
  • ​​“[The opening keynote] set the day and focused our thinking”, the  
  • “Providing more opportunities for rangatahi to lead conversations on how we provide play opportunities” and  
  • “Giving staff a way to teach physical activity that connects to school values, includes movement, engagement, [and] inclusiveness across all year levels” while also  
  • “[putting] values and people we serve first in all decision making.”  

It was exciting to see so many commitments to change from attendees who clearly resonated with the conference themes and took plenty of inspiration from the calls to action from the speakers and sessions. Sport Waikato and its staff looks forward to supporting our key partners with implementing their learning, as we work together to grow the physical activity levels of our region’s young people. 

Growing Connections Through Play, Active Recreation, Sport and Curriculum

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