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Breaking down barriers open doors for tamariki participation

Breaking down barriers open doors for tamariki participation

05 December 2023
Tamariki running on a field

Young people and their whānau in East Christchurch are reaping big benefits from new sport and wellbeing initiatives provided by two local organisations. Working alongside Sport Canterbury, Tamai Kāhui Ako and Tamai Sports both received Tū Manawa funding to give local tamariki and rangatahi access to taking part in sport opportunities, which focus on reducing barriers to participation. 

Tamai Kāhui Ako is a community of kura and early childhood centres in the Linwood and Woolston areas that aims to raise educational achievement and wellbeing. Tamai Sports gives children aged 9-13 from the Tamai learning cluster the chance to participate in sport.

4 Tamariki holding sports equipment and certificate


Tamai Kāhui Ako (Community of Learning) – sport tasters 

Having noticed fewer children involved in sports clubs, Tamai Kāhui Ako set up a pilot programme three years ago to remove barriers and spark interest in physical activity. 

“We knew the benefit of sport and being part of a club or team. There was less interest in playing and we needed to change it,” says Colin Hill, Across School Lead, Tamai Kāhui Ako. 

The programme was originally delivered as an alternative for children who didn't make a school sports team or had no interest in sport. It ran when other sports teams played inter-school on a Friday afternoon at Woolston Park.  

In its first year, 300 year 5 and 6 tamariki enjoyed ‘sports tasters’, from touch and athletics to league, hockey and dodgeball. It expanded to include another 200 year 3 and 4 students in the second year. This year, the programme is running in schools within the cluster for more than 1,320 children from years 1-6. 

Tamai Kāhui Ako reached out to Tamai Sports to help run the popular taster and tournament days. On completion, each child receives a certificate of achievement with a list of clubs on the back, if they are keen to pursue a particular sport. 

"Tamai Sports taster days aim to remove obstacles and help parents familiarise themselves with various clubs and the process of accessing them. Additionally, these events contribute to cost savings by allowing tamariki to experience a sport before committing to a club-membership and buying equipment associated with the sport – and later discovering it may not be the right fit for them. 

"We also benefit from strong ties to Tamai Sport, enabling families with financial barriers to access sports," says Colin.  

And it’s proving effective. Colin has seen students that participated in the tasters go on to play a sport. One went on to play hockey for school, while another two joined the school soccer team and went on to play Saturday club sport. 

“Receiving Tū Manawa funding is like unlocking a gateway to a world of possibilities for our Tamai tamariki. It's the key to breaking down the barriers of cost, access to clubs, and transport that have hindered their journey into the world of sports.  

“With this support, we're not just giving them access to a game, we're giving them access to a brighter future.” 

Next year, Colin hopes to further evolve the programme, with a plan to run five festival-type days each season with a range of sports on rotation. It is hoped whānau will come along to support their children and speak to the sports clubs present.

Tamariki playing rugby


Tamai Sports programme – focus on cultural identity and wellbeing 

Tamai Kāhui Ako also puts forward tamariki to participate in Tamai Sports own programme. Tamai Sports partners with local clubs and organisations to deliver a programme that focuses on cultural identity and overall wellbeing.  

Each Tuesday afternoon, about 85 tamariki go by bus from school to Linfield Park where they have afternoon tea and a session with a kaupapa Māori organisation, He Waka Tapu on hauora and cultural identity. Tamariki then enjoy coaching sessions in their chosen sport, get given a nutritious meal and are collected or taken back to school. 

On Saturdays, Tamai Sports teams compete in local competitions, which eliminates transport problems. A sausage sizzle run by whānau volunteers provides social interaction. 

There are also free touch modules comprising 25 teams, free futsal involving more than 100 tamariki, and cricket options as well. 

“Sport and regular physical exercise provide a multitude of opportunities for youth development, and promotes health through increased social, emotional and physical wellbeing,” explains Tamai Sports Programme Director Ben Hamilton. 

“However, for low income, marginalised or indigenous populations, there can be multiple and significant barriers to access. Financial costs of equipment, officials and uniforms, as well as lack of transport, or family ill-health, are all limitations.” 

Last year alone Tamai Sports enabled 450 tamariki to enjoy participating across rugby, football, netball, cricket and touch. 

One youngster, Jaivan Tuiloma, got his first sports team experience through Tamai. He moved on to playing club rugby and has just earned a full sports scholarship at Christ’s College for his secondary school years. 

“Tamai certainly changed his pathway and that of his family. They were on the sideline every week at Tamai and that gave them the confidence to take him to join a club and now they have supported him with interviews at Christ's College to successfully be offered the sports scholarship.”   

As a community-led programme with a strong whānau voice, Tamai Sports has also brought about a sense of community among whānau. At first the organisation transported children to activities, but now parents work together to carpool. 

“It’s brought about a real sense of belonging. The magic moments have been on training nights.  

In previous years, whānau would walk straight past without even looking at me. Something major has changed this year with most whānau wanting to stop and say how grateful they are for the programme and how beneficial it is,” says Ben. 

“Then there’s the improved on-field performances. We don’t care or push winning but when it begins to happen naturally due to the hard work and dedication our tamariki put in, you can't help but smile.” 

Tamariki waiting in line at a sausage sizzle

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