Kathryn Samia has no doubts basketball will be a slam dunk among secondary school pupils in the country by 2020 but is hamstrung now.

What Samia, the Basketball Hawke's Bay operations manager, fears is the impact a dearth of venues is already having on preventing the code from becoming the most popular code in that age bracket in two years.

"We have been unable to hold our regular secondary schools' competitions at the venues we already have in Hawke's Bay so we've had to go to satellite and school gyms to play the required number of games on a competition night," she says after New Zealand Secondary School Sports Council (NZSSSC) census figures show basketball is now the third largest sport in high schools, overtaking football since 2016.

"We are like the rest of the country and I firmly believe in 2020 we're going to be part of that growth."


However, Samia says the Bay was different from the rest of the country when it comes to basketball, something she was able to ascertain when she met association counterparts outside the province.

"We have so many kids who want to play that schools just can't cope with the logistics of arranging so many teams," she says, revealing Napier Boys' High School personified that frustration because supplying uniforms and finding staff members to oversee teams are among those challenges.

Should the national trend continue, basketball will become the top secondary schools' sport by the year 2020, according to the census based on returns from more than 450 schools with years 9-13 pupils.

Last year 25,649 high schoolers slipped on tank tops and oversized three-quarter shorts in a bid to find nirvana in Hoop Heaven.

Netball holds the No 1 spot with 28,455 players. Rugby union is next with 26,951 players.

Of the top 10 participation sports listed, basketball continues to be the platform for growth, mushrooming by 11 per cent in one year.

In the past five years, it has continued its trend of increasing by 27 percent.

The next booming code is volleyball, at 13 per cent over five years enticing 17,693 participants. Other more traditional codes have been dropping over that five-year trend — netball -2 per cent, rugby -6 per cent and cricket -8 per cent.


Samia says the province has been experiencing growth for a few years now but didn't have the luxury of converging at 20 netball courts at the HB Regional Sports Park complex.

"We only have three courts at the PGA [Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale], which we might get access to for our secondary schools' competition, three courts at the centennial hall [Rodney Green Events Centre in Napier] and two courts at the Hastings Sports Centre so that's all we have."

She says basketball is at the whim of Hastings Boys' High School, Napier Boys' High School, St John's College, Karamu High School and William Colenso College to meet their demands for college competition and keep their fingers crossed that they are not booked for other events on those days.

Samia says it's testing in the province where Basketball HB is having to liaise with the Hastings District and Napier City councils in doing its utmost to ensure everyone's on the same page "in a timely fashion".

"It's been very frustrating for us because we've been telling the councils for some time now that we need more court space," she says.

Samia says the growth incremental growth in the Bay hasn't been because of teenagers taking a shine to some romantic notion with the code but the diligence of a group of dedicated staff members and volunteers.

"What's feeding that growth is the amount of work that's gone at the grassroots level for the younger kids. It's not like we suddenly have a group of kids who want to play basketball at secondary schools.

"They have come from the primary schools' space. We've innovated that space to give kids more opportunities to play."

She says new rules were introduced several years ago at primary schools to work as a catalyst to stimulate that growth.

Basketball arenas have mutated into mini-courts, where volleyball court markings are employed for instance, to enable three players to be on court to savour a fuller experience of playing at an impressionable age of 5 to 6.

It appeals to parents to have their children indoors when the elements are disagreeable — rain or heat wave.

"We provide a referee or two to officiate so the parents can drop off their kids and pick them after the games or just watch them if they want.

"They are not required to jump on the court to put a whistle in their mouths or do anything like that."

Samia says Basketball HB is offering year-round competitions to children of primary and intermediate age.

"Parents are generally happy for their children to carry on in the sport when they enter high schools because of the general benefits of being involved in sports."

Basketball New Zealand chief executive Iain Potter says the increasing demand "is a good problem to have and not a revelation — basketball has been growing rapidly for years now".

Potter says that includes boosting the number of female players.

Last year 7985 high schoolgirls playing the game compared with 17,664 boys to show the disparity.

Basketball NZ believe the overall number will grow as they add more tournaments that focus on participation rather than winning national titles.

"We have some projects that could really be grown with more support, like our 3x3 Quest Tour, which is about three-a-side street basketball events that are offered around the country in the summer.

"At the high performance level, we are woefully under resourced so we need more backing there to support the player pathway so these kids can reach their potential once they complete secondary school.

"But overall, we continue to celebrate the growth of the game in New Zealand," says Potter.