High hopes visiting high performance environment

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It’s written everywhere throughout AUT Millennium – be the best you can be. It’s a message that the Global Games team believe in as well, and they aim to encourage and enable that through offering sports events and experiences to young people in regional New Zealand.

Global Games is the product of Tyrone (Ty) Campbell’s Overseas Experience. Having spent time in Europe running sports events for kids, Tyrone was inspired to return home and support children in grassroots sport. “The concept of Global Games was to focus on the kids who don’t make the representative teams,” Ty tells. “We want to encourage connecting cultures and young people in sport, promoting enjoyment and sportsmanship most of all.”

Through Global Games, teams from East Cape to Bluff and around the world, have the chance to travel and see places they otherwise wouldn’t. There is a particular focus on kids from rural areas. Events are designed to be a life experience for the kids as much as a sporting one. “In many of these areas, there’s a lot of aggression, and not a lot of progression,” says Mohi Mataparae, Event Coordinator for Global Games. “For many of them, all they see is barriers. We want to create new norms for them, a positive way for them to re-channel their energy.”

The Global Games team want to empower all young people in smaller towns, not just those who might be athletically-gifted. The concept aims to build well-rounded young citizens. “We take them to environments where everything is new to them – the sights, sounds and people,” says Ty. “The experiences built through travel, being outside their comfort zone, meeting and playing with new teams, it’s all beneficial for their development. We’re hoping to develop some real leaders here, so they can lead themselves and their communities.”

Since its inception, Global Games tournaments have grown in size, with events now so popular, teams are on waiting lists to be involved. The annual rugby tournament in Taupō is now one of the largest junior rugby events in the Southern Hemisphere, with 100 teams taking part each year. The group have also run football, netball and rugby league events. The Kiwi Junior League Festival is endorsed by New Zealand Rugby League, who use the festival as a development opportunity for their referees, as well as an avenue to implement their sideline behaviour and sportsmanship initiatives. “We’re developing life competencies through sport, really,” says Ty. “We want to show these kids pathways to be the next Kiwis player, or Black Stick, or Olympian, and while not all of them will make it in sport, they can still have fun and make it in life.”

In late November, Ty and his colleagues brought the Mātaatua Saddlebacks Under 13 team to AUT Millennium to experience a high performance environment. The team, who went undefeated throughout the 2018 club rugby league season, play host to the Global Games League Festival in Whakatāne each year. As hosts, they still mix with groups from around the country, but they miss out on the experience of traveling. “Global Games is about traveling to awesome places, stepping outside the comfort zone, and seeing what’s possible,” Ty says. “These are all great kids, but all they know is their home town, immediate families and their social circles. An experience like this is opening their eyes and providing a pathway for them. Even though they’re a league team, there could be a gold medal shot putter, a sprinter, a boxer in this group. It’s about showing them what’s out there.”

While on site, the Saddlebacks had a full introduction to the life of a high performance athlete. They were put through their paces by an ex-SAS trainer, pushing them mentally and physically, and had the opportunity to work with the AUT Millennium Athlete Development programme. “We spent a lot of time showing them different training styles and outlooks, taking them to a level they’ve never been to before,” says Ty. “We wanted to treat them like professional athletes for the weekend, mimic what a sports team might do before heading off to a world cup or similar. We wanted them to have this experience, so they can then go away and think about how they can use this knowledge.”

As well as a water safety session, aquatic-based movement and recovery sessions, and a tour of Auckland, the group spent time with now-retired weightlifter Tracey Lambrechs, who works at AUT Millennium. Tracey competed at three Commonwealth Games as well as the 2016 Rio Olympics, and was able to share her experience with the group. “We want the kids to see where they can get to, and what proactive steps they can take to get there,” says Mohi. “And most of all, we want them to take what they learned here back to their community and share it with their friends and whanau.”

Looking forward, Ty and his team have big hopes for Global Games. “We have connections with groups overseas, particularly in France,” he says. “We’re going to be taking a group from Papatoetoe to Lyon in 2020, with the same philosophies we operate on here at home. Traveling overseas, opening these kids’ eyes to what’s out there in the world, that kind of experience is invaluable. We’re going to research soldiers from Papatoetoe who died during the war, and go and pay our respects to them. Again, sport is the vehicle, but it will be about so much more than sport.”

With the right financial support, the team can see a sustainable future for Global Games. “We are a couple of part timers and volunteers, we all have day jobs,” Ty says. “But we share a vision and enjoy each other’s company, and we’re really proud of what we’ve been able to achieve on the smell of an oily rag. If we can secure any form funding, we can really take this further. I’d love to bring a dozen or so teams a year from rural New Zealand to AUT Millennium for this experience, be taking six teams to France every year. There’s so much potential for us to be making a significant difference in the lives of these kids, not just their sports.”

To find out more about Global Games and how you can support them, visit www.globalgames.co.nz

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