School holiday activities don't get much better than meeting your sporting heroes and the next generation of All Blacks and Black Ferns had the opportunity to learn from one of the best in Tauranga yesterday.
Former All Black Liam Messam was at Inside Running Academy for the day, holding a free coaching clinic for children from all over Bay of Plenty.
Academy director Mike Rogers said he expected about 60-80 children to sign up for what was originally planned to be a single two-hour session but, within hours, 280 had signed up.
The event became four one-hour sessions to accommodate the numbers and Messam was joined by Black Ferns Niall Williams, Shakira Baker, Kelly Brazier and Risaleaana Pouri-Lane at different sessions throughout the day.
"It was awesome, it ran really well," Rogers said.
"It's always a bit of a challenge when you run something to that scale, to make sure it's high quality and safe, but it all went without any issues at all.
"We had the kids in a rotation and they'd spend 12-13 minutes with each coach. It was just fun, game-based stuff, not rugby-specific, just stuff to get them moving and having fun. It was awesome, the kids were loving it and the feedback from parents was great."
Rogers said Messam was "a minor shareholder" in the Inside Running Academy and was there hosting a five-day intensive camp for rugby players aged 14-18 when they decided it would be a good idea to do something free for the community.
"It was really generous of Liam to donate his time and he's a bit of an old dog now but obviously still a massive drawcard.
"He's great with the kids, he led the discussion before and after and all he really wanted out of the day was that the kids were having fun and running around with smiles.
Inclusivity is key: Para swimmers gather in Rotorua
"All the stuff we designed was around that and we certainly achieved those objectives.
"The Black Ferns came along for a couple of hours each which is cool, they just do that stuff because they love getting involved in the community and we're lucky to have them based here."
Without the global Covid-19 pandemic, the Black Ferns Sevens would've been setting up camp in Japan about now, ready to prepare for the Olympics, which have since been postponed until next year. Rogers said it showed their character that they were using the time at home to get involved with the local community.
"They would've left a couple of days ago but they try not to dwell on that stuff, which must be hard. I went and watched some of them play club rugby the other day and it's probably the best game of women's club rugby I've ever watched.
"There is a silver lining in everything, I think."