As someone well over the intermediate-age limit of AIMS Games and who does not have participating children in the tournament, I love everything about the event that brings thousands of budding athletes to the city. Here are my reasons AIMS Games is my favourite sporting event.
Providing intermediate-aged athletes with the taste of a major sporting event to compete in:
Growing up I loved sports tournaments. No matter the size of event being able to represent your school at a sports competition was a highlight of my school years. AIMS Games wasn't around when I was at intermediate but I wish it was. Intermediate is a real in between age. You're a bit too old to be lumped in with the primary school children but you'd get lost at a sports competition that featured high school students.
This is why AIMS Game is so important - these kids get to experience a major sporting event that will prepare them for secondary school competitions and potentially fire them up for higher honours in the future. Getting that taste will no doubt spark, in some budding athletes, a hunger for more, and a confidence in themselves and their abilities through being around same-aged athletes.
Something for everyone:
When I was growing up if you weren't a swimmer or played netball, rugby, touch, athletics or cricket, there wasn't a lot of options to be part of a sports competition. So many kids missed out on the chance to experience a school sports tournament because they were never going to be the first picked for a school representative team. The number of sports available at AIMS Games, caters to just about everyone - whether they are more inclined to the rough sports such as rugby, the less physical activities such as indoor bowls or even the strength-based sports such as rock climbing and even para-sports, there really is something for everyone to be involved, making it an inclusive event.
The stories it uncovers:
From the first event you cover as a journalist, you're bound to meet some amazing young athletes. My first event last year I spoke to Tauranga Intermediate's Renee Carey after she won her first AIMS Games event as a Year 7 cross country runner. A few days later I watched as she won gold yet again in the multisport event - while cheering on the young athlete who was behind her. This year she's won both events yet again, even breaking the record in her cross country division, but this time she claimed gold as a Year 8. I've also got to meet a passionate blind athlete who placed third in his para-athletics event, who was so passionate about his own carbon footprint that he wanted to plant trees just for travelling from Wellington to Tauranga for the tournament. There are so many more amazing stories at this event and there really is no way to be able to uncover every one.
The young athletes get to be part of an event that really celebrates them. With an opening ceremony that provides them with the chance to see musicians they've never seen before and the chance to hear stories from established athletes, there is no doubt organisers want to put on the best experience they can. For many kids, it's their only chance to compete, they get to meet others like themselves and they get a week away with their peers. It's an exciting time for everyone involved and athletes having as much support as they do from all those cheering them on, the athletes are given an environment surrounded by positivity.