The Northland Sports Coalition (NSC) was established in 2015 to create a forum of members (representing their sport regionally) which existed to collectively support, promote and advocate for the ongoing development of sport in Northland.
The plan was to have sport speaking and acting collectively and thereby strengthening engagement with councils, ensuring region-wide awareness of the challenges, issues and opportunities affecting the provision of sport in Northland and in turn to develop and recommend collective solutions-based initiatives to enhance regional participation in sport.
The group wanted to identify areas of common interest and advocate for regional co-operation on active recreation and sport issues and to collaborate as much as possible.
Four years have passed, and I think it is fair to say that excellent progress has been made. The NSC has driven collaboration amongst codes on projects such as Good Sports, Balance is Better, St John's service at Kensington Park for winter codes, establishing the Northland Sports Governance Forum, creating a collaborative working group to look at the overlapping of sport seasons and success in attracting funding to employ a resource to support RSOs to make changes to their sport to ensure they are more inclusive of Māori.
There has also been collaboration on the ground between sports codes, as evidenced by Northland Cricket joining with a number of other codes in providing opportunities for young people to experience other sports beyond their own sport of cricket.
The project has involved Northland Cricket, Touch NZ, AFL NZ and Hockey Northland, with skills from all four sports being delivered in joint sessions at rural Whangārei schools and in schools in Kaitaia and Rodney.
Funded through Sport NZ's Kiwisport fund, which is administered in Northland by Sport Northland with the aim of getting more young people playing sport and being active, the multi-sport programme has been hugely successful with schools.
Northland Cricket development manager Paul Hope said he was grateful to Touch NZ, AFL NZ and Hockey Northland who have taken up the opportunity to be part of the collaborative group.
Dawn Reid, a new entrant teacher from Pamapuria School in Kaitaia was glowing about the programme.
"Our tamariki were excited to be given the opportunity to try different sports that are not commonly played in our community," she said.
"They were taught skills that will be transferable into other sports and easily remembered thanks to the hints and tricks that were passed on. It was amazing seeing the tamariki as young as 5 being able to punt kick the ball with accuracy after just one lesson!
"We would highly recommend the Kiwisport multi-sport programme to other schools".
This kind of collaboration between codes is exactly what the Northland Sports Coalition is promoting – sport needs to be looking at different ways of delivering their product to ensure that our young people are acquiring the skills they need to be able to enjoy a lifelong love of sport.
Congratulations to all four sports for thinking outside the box and trying a different approach.