New Plymouth Rangers AFC successfully applied for Tū Manawa funding through Sport Taranaki for a play project to keep the children of parents playing at weekends engaged, and to run play sessions during the football season.
“We wanted to have different tools and equipment to involve everyone in football-based play. We are a big club and have many different programmes that benefit from a play component,” says club captain John Sigurdsson.
“We saw this as a good opportunity to keep the children of parents playing in our senior teams (male and female) entertained and provide for the community that comes to watch the games,” he says.
The club, which has more than 300 junior members and 130 seniors, applied for funding for equipment including inflatable football fields, giant kick targets, large inflatable footballs, mini nets, targets and flags.
“We wanted equipment that wasn’t your standard play equipment and would be unique but appealing to tamariki,” explains John.
“We imported a few items and the huge blow-up balls have been a great hit, though we’ve had to be careful the wind doesn’t sail them across the road!”
Having used the equipment over winter, it has enabled the club to provide fun, exciting and different play experiences for more than 100 children.
“The club recognises a structured football session isn’t for everyone and therefore found it great to be able to provide this play opportunity,” says John.
Most importantly, it’s an initiative that can involve the entire family.
“If our club is a fun place for young people to be then they are more likely to stay engaged in football and be active.”
And it’s working – young people are enjoying the play equipment, then they’re signing up for holiday programmes and then getting involved in football.
“There really are many different pathways into football and ensuring that young people can be involved with our club at a level they wish is really important,” says John.
“We have programmes that cater for young people who are ambitious and want to progress down the football pathway, and we have fun programmes that are not completely focussed on football, like our holiday programme.”
The club has also created a play space in its clubrooms for under-fives to provide a family-friendly environment that allows exploration and play.
Sport Taranaki play adviser Hester Stretton says his organisation values opportunities that encourage children the freedom, time and space to play in a way that suits them.
“It has been amazing to see New Plymouth Rangers take the initiative and look for fun, exciting alternative play options that engage all children to get out and have a good time, which indirectly creates a healthy mindset for being active throughout life.”
From here on in, the club’s play equipment will continue to be used at junior prize-giving, holiday programmes, fun open days and big game days.