Pupils fit for life
A new sports academy aims to instil resilience, motivation and commitment in its children.
Te Kura o Otangarei's sports academy is starting this year with 10 year 5 to 8 students.
Principal Myles Ferris says it will celebrate excellence and empower top sports students with mental toughness, fitness and skills.
But he also hopes the academy will help turn around some of Otangarei's negative crime statistics.
"It is something we knew we needed to do because we have some very streetwise students in Otangarei and if we leave it too late some of them are already heading down the wrong path," Mr Ferris says.
The sports academy is thought to be one of the first of its kind at primary-school level in New Zealand.
It is free for the selected students to attend but they must be at school at 8.15am four mornings a week for fitness training and stay behind four afternoons a week for skill training in specific codes.
Codes being learnt by the students this term are tennis, waka ama, rugby and swimming.
Mr Ferris says the students will also be required to meet academic goals to stay in the academy.
"This programme is about giving our students the opportunity to head down the pathway to professional sports.
"We really do need to start getting our children from an earlier age and showing them what they can achieve when they set their goals."
He says the academy will teach important life skills in a forum that Maori excel at - sports.
"We have the talent and the desire to do well in sport but we're missing a few things - work ethic, missing resilience and strength," he says.
"Those sorts of things are really important for us to succeed."
Students at the academy have been given uniforms, water bottles and a dedicated room for training.
Everly Henry, 10, says it is pretty exciting to be picked for the team.
She is interested in netball, basketball and waka ama but admits the training commitments could be quite hard to start with.
But Jaedan Godsall, 12, has high fitness already because he has been training with his mum.
He is excited about having a go at waka ama, rugby league, basketball and tennis.
"I want to be skinnier and healthy," he says.
Academy head teacher Moana Clark says students had to apply for a position and will learn how to sell themselves.
They were chosen mostly for their attitude.
Mr Ferris says there are just 10 students in the academy this year but he would like to see it grow to 30 or 40.
The programme is supported by sponsors and Sport Northland, which launched its primary school fitness programme Project Energize along with last week's academy launch.