US col­lege sport not a pos­si­bil­ity in NZ

Central Leader - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - SAMHEWAT

An in­ter-uni­ver­sity sport com­pe­ti­tion sim­i­lar to the United States is im­pos­si­ble to copy in New Zealand, a di­rec­tor of sport and recre­ation says.

Col­lege sport plays a mas­sive role in the United States, where stu­dents thrive on get­ting around their col­lege teams and sports schol­ar­ships are a ma­jor part of post-high school ed­u­ca­tion.

But in New Zealand no such cul­ture ex­ists. While there are uni­ver­sity teams in lo­cal Auck­land com­pe­ti­tions - in­clud­ing a uni­ver­sity cricket club and uni­ver­sity rugby club - they field very few uni­ver­sity stu­dents, in­stead just car­ry­ing the name and serv­ing the wider com­mu­nity.

As­so­ciate di­rec­tor of cam­pus life, sport and recre­ation at the Uni­ver­sity of Auck­land, Louis Rat­tray, said the sport­ing sys­tem in Amer­ica helped to cre­ate a tribal men­tal­ity to­wards uni­ver­sity and New Zealand sim­ply didn’t have the re­sources or the cul­ture to mimic that.

‘‘Amer­i­can col­lege sport is it’s own beast and it’s taken 100 years to evolve to where it is to­day,’’ Rat­tray said.

‘‘Ev­ery stu­dent at a col­lege over there will have their uni­ver­sity colours on. New Zealand will never get to the stan­dard of Amer­i­can col­lege sport just by sheer weight of pop­u­la­tion.’’

Rather than a reg­u­lar com­pe­ti­tion, New Zealand has in­stead em­braced one-off week­end tour­na­ments that are eas­ier to or­gan­ise and get more par­tic­i­pa­tion. Cou­pled with that are in­ter-fac­ulty com­pe­ti­tions within the uni­ver­sity.

Th­ese have helped foster an el­e­ment of com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the uni­ver­si­ties, and more stu­dents have been get­ting in­volved with sport.

How­ever, Kiwi stu­dents still don’t turn out in droves to sup­port their uni­ver­sity, and that’s sim­ply a cul­tural thing, Rat­tray said.

‘‘Look at the Blues as our fran­chise team, how of­ten do they fill Eden Park? So to ex­pect the col­lege sys­tem to do that is to­tally un­re­al­is­tic.

’’I just think there’s an ap­a­thy. If you’re not par­tic­i­pat­ing, it’s not re­ally worth go­ing.’’

Uni­ver­si­ties were also more fo­cused on aca­demics than sport, he said.

‘‘We have to be con­scious that stu­dents are here to study first and fore­most,’’ Rat­tray said.

‘‘If we throw too much sport into the cal­en­dar, it can ac­tu­ally com­pro­mise their aca­demic achieve­ment so we’ve got to bal­ance that.’’

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