Basketball is now the second most-participated secondary-school sport after a massive 44.9% increase in players this decade.

Basketballs rise in popularity is undeniable through the annual School Sport New Zealand Census just released, which details annual secondary-school participation rates since 2000. Basketball New Zealand Chief Executive Iain Potter says two of the big reasons for this growth include an increasingly diverse national-population and the creation of opportunities to play, but he says the growth is less than what it could be.

"This growth is not a surprise for us. Weve seen the growth of this participation-trend since the Census began.

"Theres been some great work by the basketball community to foster the opportunities for kids to play, but we could have achieved so much more if the support from central government, the Ministry of Education, local councils and funders corresponded with this vast growth. Basketball-participation has almost doubled in just ten years, whereas basketballs funding certainly hasnt," said a very matter-of-fact Mr Potter today.

Potter says the rise in participation correlates with the access to facilities, coaching, and the introduction of basketball opportunities at schools and communities, but he says that good work is not enough to give Kiwi kids the opportunities they are crying out for.

"To play, kids need opportunities with a ball, coach and a court. This relentless growth has seen basketball facilities become prime real-estate, with court bookings bursting. And the majority of our Associations are at their wits-end trying to get enough support to provide coaches, referees, and venues for their players and leagues."

Mr Potter said New Zealand is a different country than it was in the year 2010 and that the change in demographics also impacts basketball participation.

"Another big reason is the increase in this countrys ethnic diversity. Basketball is a global game that is the preferred sport for many people across many different ethnicities. As the populations of those ethnicities grow in New Zealand, so does basketball participation. We are fortunate to see young players of all backgrounds stepping onto our courts. Basketball in New Zealand caters for kiwis of all races, creeds and both genders," says Mr Potter.

The School Sport New Zealand Census shows a total of 26,481 secondary school students played for a basketball team at school in 2018. This is an increase of 3% from 2017. Over five years between 2014 to 2018, the growth was 26%. For the first time ever, basketball has become more popular than the more traditional sports. Netball remains the most popular sport with 27,139 (-5% from 2017).

School Sport New Zealand CEO Garry Carnachan agrees that basketball is well-suited to the young Kiwis of today and the sport is in need of more support.

"Basketball is ticking many of the boxes that young people are looking for in their sport these days - it is fast paced, has options for boys and girls, offers tournament play and has an exciting modified version in 3x3.

"While this is great news for the sport it also poses a number of challenges in providing the required support in terms of opportunities to play and quality coaches, referees and facilities," says Mr Carnachan.

Mr Potter says basketball will be breaking new ground once people with the purse-strings wake up and take notice.

"We have big ambitions. With backing, we can achieve huge things as a national sport. I think Basketball New Zealand and our Associations do a great job with what it has. The basketball community has created more tournaments, provided a better pathway for our junior elite players, provided more coaching and referee workshops than ever before. That said, the basketball community can do so much more.

"The more playing opportunities the basketball community provides, the more kids are playing, and the benefits are far-reaching. Basketball provides young people with the chance to not only get away from their screens, which is one of the big ones people thank basketball for, but also to learn about team-work, being part of the community, winning and losing with respect, and generally growing and competing in a positive and fun environment. Ultimately its about growing better people through the game."

Mr Potter says he would like to take this time to thank those organisations that are supporting the game.

"While I have called for more support, I would like to make a point of thanking our partners. The likes of Schick, Aon, Sals Pizza have all come aboard as a community level sponsor, directly looking to helping to positively help Kiwi kids. Sport New Zealands community support too. And importantly, those community Trusts, organisations and businesses in the regions that support our basketball associations."

The full Census can be found on the New Zealand Secondary School website here

Top 10 most-participated New Zealand Secondary-School Sports

Sports / Participants / % Change 2014-2018 / % Change 2017-2018

Netball (outdoor) / 27,139 / -7% / -5%

Basketball / 26,481 / 26% / 3%

Rugby Union / 25,317 / -12% / -6%

Football / 23,513 / -2% / -6%

Volleyball / 17,466 / 5% / -1%

Hockey (Outdoor) / 14,145 / 4% / -2%

Touch / 12,187 / -12% / -1%

Athletics / 11,301 / -11% / -5%

Badminton / 10,793 / 9% / 4%

Cricket (Outdoor) / 9,500 / -4% / -1%

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand