There's been a plethora of youth sport in the last couple of weeks, with some amazing achievements from Hawke's Bay teams during winter secondary school tournament week, the massive intermediate AIMS games, and then this week the Super Sixes for primary school sport at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park in Hastings.
Our Bay secondary school athletes had some great achievements, highlighted by Iona taking out the national hockey title, remarkably against another Hawke's Bay team, Napier Girls', who were also outstanding in making the final, as did Napier Boys' reach the rugby final, which made it three years in a row for a Bay team in the national final.
Those results, and all the great experiences many others had at secondary school tournaments, all started with an introduction to sport at some stage, and that introduction and early experiences is what the Super Sixes primary school event is all about.
The Super Sixes was a great two-day event this week; the brainchild of Malcolm Dixon, it is for year 6 primary students, and was well run again this year at the Regional Sports Park.
The great thing about it, is it hasn't got all high-performance (yet) and has all those other experiences that are great about sport.
There are young referees getting a chance; kids can be exposed to new sports they may end up loving, and they are at the perfect stage of development to benefit from sporting variety – both the physical movement patterns and the different visual and decision-makings skills that come from other sports.
And most importantly, some kids are getting a first real go at sport, in a supportive environment with their friends. A great opportunity to mix in some of the newbies, with others who are already confident in that code.
It was fantastic to see teams visit from outside the region, and especially cool to see some smaller rural schools getting a couple of days of quality experiences at good facilities and packing a lot of competing and mixing with others into a short period.
A good blend of sports too, especially having Ki ō Rahi – some schools commented that they didn't yet play it, but watched it, and were now keen. A brilliant way to build more Māori culture into the education system, in a natural way through sport.
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With all that good stuff going on, it becomes a great opportunity to connect local sponsors to healthy lifestyle options, so it was great to see lots of Bostock apples and some great local juice from the Apple Press.
The challenge going forward for the organisers will be to keep it real. Keeping it fun and organic, keeping it about the kids. The AIMS games in Tauranga, for the intermediate age groups, has become a huge event – most of it great, but some negative aspects have also been flagged.
The Super Sixes has the potential to grow, but its growth will need to be carefully managed. It has the potential to be something really new and great, something that can mitigate against the growing intensification around youth sport. But if not, it could equally develop its own monster head, and be a platform for the ugly sides of youth sport
Education for parents, coaches and schools on the impact of their social media posts wouldn't hurt, so we collectively get the right messages out there.
At the moment the event is perfect, the innocent kids know no different, and are having pure fun – but sometimes well-intended, but ill-informed posts from adults around "their" primary school teams beating up on rival teams doesn't really help.
Sadly, that type of social media is part of the modern world, and we need to work against it.
Sport can be a great vehicle for social outcomes, but we should all play a part in driving a positive ethos, it can't just be up to the players and the coaches.
With the intermediate schools AIMS Games having just completed a 15th year, it has grown into a beast with about 11,000 young sports competitors involved from 326 schools.
The feedback on that tournament can be quite mixed, an amazing event, but also some negative feedback about some nasty attitudes.
Perhaps smaller regional events are better, so we aren't applying an adult high performance mentality into kids' sport.
Maybe drop the TV and professional commentators, perhaps deliberately keeping it grass roots is the way to go?
The kids loved Super Sixes, so the opportunity for the future is huge. The management and strategic minds behind it will have to be ready to go to the next level too.
The challenge and opportunity will be to keep the right ethos front and centre, before the beast grows its own head. Grass roots rules, okay.
• Marcus Agnew is the health and sport development manager at Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust and is also a lecturer in sports science at EIT.