Basketball increasing as sport of choice among New Zealand youth
Kiwi kids sport is going through a cultural shift as traditional favourites rugby and cricket are being tossed out the door for growing sports basketball and futsal.
New Zealand Secondary Schools Sports Council statistics show several team sports have plummeted in numbers over the last five years and the trend continues at an alarming rate.
The once popular sports among secondary school students - rugby union, netball, cricket and golf - have all decreased in participation between 2011 and 2016.
Despite hosting a Rugby World Cup and winning another during this period, rugby union has declined in secondary schools by 13 per cent, and in just one year, directly after the All Blacks brought home the Webb Ellis Trophy from Twickenham, rugby numbers decreased by 3 per cent.
The outright winner in team sports over the last five years has been basketball as participation increased by 27 per cent.
"There's no doubt in our minds that there is a cultural shift happening in New Zealand when it comes to sport," Basketball New Zealand chief executive Iain Potter said.
"Our basketball participation figures are at an all-time high and it appears those figures are only going to grow."
"If you look closely, you'll see basketball has a wonderful diversity of Kiwis across different ethnicities, genders and ages – it really represents who we are as a nation."
Potter said while basketball had Steven Adams dominating sports headlines, Basketball NZ had been putting in some work at "grassroots' level to help build numbers up for Kiwi kids.
"This success is fantastic, but it also creates growing pains. We are crying out for more facilities throughout the country. We've got kids lining up to play and we need more courts for them. We also need more funders to realise that this is happening. Basketball is the modern day sport of choice for many Kiwis and that needs to be recognised more widely."
In Canterbury, basketball was not only the fastest growing sport for secondary school students, but the most popular for both sexes with 3752 girls and boys signed up to play, ahead of both netball (2733) and rugby (2510).
Canterbury Basketball chief executive Paul Duggan said the growth in junior basketball across the region and nation was a positive sign for the sport's future. Basketball is projected to be the number one sport of choice for Kiwi youths by 2020.
"This reflects the global profile of the sport, the appeal for both genders and the equal-opportunity nature of the game.
"The challenges going forward are about securing the funding and the facilities to accommodate the continued increase in the numbers wanting to play."
Other than rugby union, netball (-2 per cent) cricket (-16 per cent ) and golf (-23 per cent) all decreased in participation in the last five years. However, netball still remains the single most popular sport for secondary school students with just under 30,000 registered secondary school players, the majority being female.
Netball New Zealand's head of community netball Ruth Stanley was positive about netball's firm place in Kiwi sporting culture, but said the organisation was doing all it could to adapt to a changing society.
"Although we rate with the highest participation rate and we remain pretty constant as a popular sport for youth in New Zealand because we are traditional, and firmly embedded in our sporting culture, we are certainly not resting on our laurels."
Stanley said with the amount of choices children now have and commitments outside of sport, it was netball's place to adapt.
Netball NZ had developed a "growth strategy' which would look at changing the game and making it available in a form that would suit everyone. She said the day of the week it was played, competition, social and formats of the game were all being looked at.
She said a big barrier for her sport and all others, was getting enough coaches and volunteers to help.
"I think it's an issue across all sport. There are less teachers involved in sport, there are more parents involved in primary school sport than secondary too.
"Every sport needs to evolve to keep up with society and remain relevant. We need to keep up with changes in society."
Futsal (the indoor five-a-side version of football) was the fastest growing sport for secondary school students, increasing by 31 per cent since 2011 after it was implemented to New Zealand schools in 2010. New Zealand Football currently have over 22,000 futsal players with the goal of reaching 27,000 by 2020.
New Zealand Football Futsal Development Manager Josh Margetts put the growth down to the fact that futsal is not weather dependent as well as being time and cost effective.
The good news for New Zealand's gold medal tally was yachting (+5 per cent) and rowing (+22 per cent) continue to grow among youth sport.
While many sporting organisations previously had theories their players were turning away from team sport for individual pursuits like multisport, triathlon and cycling - the drop rate in tennis, multisport and golf indicate New Zealand secondary school students are walking away from sport altogether.
Nationally, netball, rugby, football and basketball were still the four most popular sports chosen by Kiwi secondary school students in 2016.
Minority sports such as snooker, frisbee golf, marching, archery, synchronised swimming, adventure racing, mountain biking, curling and windsurfing have all risen in numbers since 2011, indicating a huge shift in New Zealand sporting culture for the future.
YOUTH SPORT AT A GLANCE
Most popular in secondary school sport as of end of 2016
1. Netball (29,257 players)
2. Rugby Union (27,261)
3. Football (26,230)
4. Basketball (23,180)
5. Volleyball (16,902)
6. Hockey (13,967)
7. Touch (13,234)
8. Athletics (12,713)
9. Badminton (10,187)
10. Cricket (9959)
11. Cross Country (6879)
12. Futsal (6709)
13. Tennis (6295)
14. Rugby Sevens (5461)
15. Swimming (4433)
16. Rowing (3980)
17. Rugby League (3242)
Rate of growth between 2011-2016
1. Futsal (318%)
2. Snooker (235%)
3. Archery (188%)
4. Curling (160%)
6. Lacrosse (157%)
7. Synchro swimming (123%)
8. Adventure racing (85%)
9. Ultimate frisbee (83%)
10. Marching (60%)
11. Orienteering (53%)
12. Indoor bowls (50%)
16. Basketball (27%)
22. Football (7%)
46. Netball (-2%)
57. Rugby Union (-13%)