New Zealand Secondary School Sport: Ahead of the game

New Zealand Secondary School Sport: Ahead of the game

With more than 150,000 students pulling on a school jersey to represent their school in competitive sport in 2017, secondary schools in New Zealand are the primary setting for sport, particularly team sport, for 13 -18 year olds. This represents 54% of all students – one of the largest school sport representation rates in the world!

New Zealand Secondary School Sports Council (NZSSSC) annual census figures also show that more than 9,000 teachers provided sporting leadership by way of coaching or managing school teams, supported by an equal number of parents and other members of the community.


NZSSSC was formed in 1992 to provide governance and leadership for secondary school sport and is headed by a board of principals elected on a regional basis. As the national body for school sport, NZSSSC is supported by a network of 20 Regional School Sport offices that provide event programmes and school sport development throughout the country.

Key areas of NZSSSC work include;

Working with National Sports Organisations to co-ordinate and sanction a programme of National Secondary School Championships so that both schools and sports have their needs best met. In 2018 this programme comprises 228 events across more than 50 sports. 

Providing Professional Learning opportunities through annual conferences for more than 400 school sport personnel.

Delivering the New Zealand Teachers Games – an annual sports tournament for teachers with the aim of “Re-engaging teachers in the Joy and Value of Sport”.

Implementing the Sport in Education initiative in schools – an approach to using sport as a tool to engage students in their learning, their community and sport. The SiE approach has proven hugely successful in improving academic outcomes and engagement with school and in reducing negative social outcomes.

Using a system of School Sport Awards, including an international travel award, to recognise and reward a range of service, innovation, leadership and achievements in NZ school sport.

Conducting an annual census of all NZ Secondary Schools and collating the data to inform planning and change when advocating for secondary school sport with government agencies and sporting bodies in the school sport experience for students. 


While Netball (29,000 students) and Rugby (27,000) have long held the top spots for numbers representing their school, Basketball (26,000), which has experienced more than 25% growth over the last five years and Football (24,000) are closing the gap. With the current student choices trending towards small sided sports, less formal competition structures and the ability to “have fun playing with my friends”, a number of new sports, led by Futsal (7,000) with a more than 120% 5 year growth rate are also making a big impact.

Being at the bottom of the Pacific, the difference in both seasons and school years between hemispheres (NZ school year is February to December), along with distance and cost of travel can prove a barrier to New Zealand participating in ISF Championship events. However, the quality of the ISF experience has seen New Zealand teams compete at ISF Tennis, Football, Volleyball, Basketball, Orienteering and Cross Country Championships in recent years.

Sport is a big part of the New Zealand’s cultural fabric and with secondary school sport representation at such a high level, school sport plays an important part in developing our young people to make a positive contribution to the physical, mental and social health of their communities and New Zealand.

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