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Monday, April 10, 2006


(New Zealand Press Association Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)
Wellington, April 9 NZPA

Sport and Recreation New Zealand (Sparc) has rejected a suggestion it is spending too much on elite sport to the detriment of the grassroots, saying it believes it has got the mix right. But Sparc chief executive Nick Hill agrees issues involving funding of schools' sport will have to be addressed.

Secondary Schools Association president Graham Young has said Sparc would do better to look at its own performance at delivering funding in a timely and reasonable manner, rather than focusing on how many medals New Zealand wins at future international games after a poor return at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

Sparc had predicted 46 medals from last month's Melbourne Commonwealth Games but New Zealand only won 31 -- its poorest haul since Brisbane in 1982.

Gary Moller Comments
When a teenager, I played tennis with my two brothers just about every day – even in the rain. Every little community in New Zealand had at least one tennis club. Back then, New Zealand was a strong competitor on the international tennis scene. New Zealand Tennis, as I recall, concentrated most of its resources in its elite tennis programme – Davis Cup to be exact. Clubs were largely left to look after themselves with little input or assistance from the governing body.
By the mid 1980’s New Zealand Tennis woke up to reality: its base of clubs had fallen into a near terminal collapse of disrepair and declining numbers and, with that, their supply of talented new players had all but dried up. The consequence of this neglect is weed-infested tennis courts in just about every town and we had dropped right down towards the bottom of international rankings.

The peak of a sport's pyramid is dependent on the width of its base. Erode away the base and the peak will eventually be lowered. This is what has happened with tennis and we can see the same happening with other sports like athletics. Of course, the solutions are not simple and sports with a huge base will still struggle if the structures are not in place to nurture their youngsters through to the senior grades - NZ soccer would be a good example of this.

I agree with Graham Young that there is disproportionate funding going into the elite grades and not enough is being done to halt the catastrophic loss of clubs, or to ensure that structures are in place to nurture youngsters through to senior grades. We need to get a move on: As one senior sports and recreation official quipped to me a few years ago; "Sports clubs are closing at about the rate of one per day".
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