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SportsTalk! Medals and Mates

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

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During the Olympic Games there was a raft of discussion in the media and communities about the value of a medal.

A number of commentators remarked on the large cost of high performance sport.

In the sport and recreation sector, we also heard about how much community sport (i.e. targeting the people who don’t win medals) could achieve with the same amount of investment. There were people suggesting that the investment into high performance sport would be better spent just getting the New Zealand population more active.

I’m not sure this type of debate ever has a happy ending. In my mind, it’s a good platform for discussion and sharing of ideas; but there can’t be just ONE answer. Common sense suggests that we need BOTH. Indeed, we want the country to be active – involved in sport, recreation and just physical movement. It’s good for us, we make great friends, it keeps our brains active and its fun.

Winning medals creates that wonderful elation, national pride and inspiration and it shows the world what New Zealand can do. The high performance sport system also provides a pathway for those who are talented sports people. It makes us believe that through hard work goals can be achieved.

In the Bay of Plenty we were fortunate to have more than our fair share of connection with Olympic medallists, so we know that feeling of excitement and success well. Most people in the Bay of Plenty would also support the goal of wanting all people to be active. During our recent consultation about long term goals for this sector there was strong feedback that we need our population to experience the benefits of being physically active.

One of the main pieces of feedback we received was that being active (in sport or recreation) is FUN. The other theme was that the social connections from being active is the strongest reason for staying involved. We make/keep mates when we’re active, we chat and we process information more readily.

In the context of this discussion - could we ever choose between medals and mates? It’s an over-simplification, but one that might provide some clarity. In the Bay of Plenty we value both of these goals and I think our focus should be on ensuring that the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts (high performance and community sport).

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