You will be hearing a lot about New Zealand for the next month or so. The rugby team of course, seeing as the All Blacks are the outstanding favorites to reclaim the Rugby World Cup trophy that they famously lifted on home soil four years ago. With this in mind, now would seem a pretty good time to emphasise why New Zealand is one of the finest sporting nations on the planet and thus one of the places to go to play sport in.
If you’re looking for evidence then considering some of their most renowned teams, international and domestic, is a good way to start. We all know of the All Blacks, widely perceived as the globe’s premier sporting team. Those from the League format aren’t bad either, having won their World Cup in 2008 and finishing runner-up three times. Along with Australia their netball team stands as one of the leading international sides, with the Silver Ferns having acquired four World Championships and two Commonwealth Games. The cricketers continue to set the Test scene alight with their expansive play and recently finished runner-up to Australia at the World Cup. To name but a few of their domestic treasures, five of the Super 15 rugby union sides come from this Southern Hemisphere superpower, winning five of the last 10 championships. A number of high quality cricket sides also exist, including the Otago Volts, who play at Dunedin’s University Oval.
Yet this sporting success wouldn’t be as celebrated if not for the sporting culture that envelopes New Zealand, engulfing every sportsman and woman and filtering down to all levels and ages. Whether it is a seasoned international or an amateur youngster playing with his or her mates, the passion and love for sport remains the same. Sport is an essential element of the New Zealand way of life, almost a cultural obligation. It is played with a sense of freedom, adventure and joy. Winning and giving everything is essential but so is enjoying every minute of every match or training session. To truly understand it, you have to experience it for yourself.
Part of the lure of playing sport in New Zealand, and one of the integral reasons for why Sport Lived run fantastic gap year programmes there, are the first-class playing facilities on offer at many of the clubs. A gap year here is by no means a simple kick, hit or throw about in a park – it is training and playing week-in, week-out alongside committed teammates and coaches on pitches and in surroundings that are ideal for sporting development. These clubs are not only competitive but cater for a range of standards, with a number of male and female teams. If you are really looking to push yourself, the top sides play in some of the highest provincial leagues. For example, you could be playing football in competitions just below the New Zealand Football Championship. Bring together the unique attitude towards sport and the environment you’d be thriving in and you have one exceptional combination.
To seal the deal, just consider what Sport Lived has to offer. Programmes are available in a range of sports from cricket to netball and of course the sport that perhaps defines New Zealand more than any other – rugby union. The variety in gap year options is replicated by the length of time you can chose to test and enjoy yourself, with mini-seasons as short as 4 weeks and full seasons as long as 25 weeks on offer. All occurring in Dunedin, the second-largest city on the country’s Southern Island and the principal city of the Otago region. It also happens to be the place where many of New Zealand’s finest ever athletes honed their remarkable talents, such as Brendon McCullum and Richie McCaw. Living in the heart of the city you’ll get to train 2/3 times a week and play games at weekends.
History, a palpable zest for sport and superb facilities and clubs coalesce to present a wonderful opportunity for young athletes aspiring to not just see a new beautiful part of the world but to further their abilities and enhance their own passions for sport. It is both a terrific sporting and cultural experience. So if you’re thinking of doing a sports gap year, then think of New Zealand – there’s nothing quite like it.
To see what gap year programmes you could be doing in New Zealand through Sport Lived, click here.