Recreation is more important than sport

I had the opportunity to contribute my story to this study –  Lifelong outdoor enthusiasts’ engagement with nature-based activities later in life. I owe so much to my outdoor activities and strongly believe the government should be making public recreation a higher priority than high performance sport for both physical and mental long term benefits.

Covid-19 and lockdown highlighted this in so many ways. Sport ground to a halt. Organised team and group activities, gathering in facilities, spectating – all suffered, but in response everyone started walking, cycling and post level 4 we started exploring activities that didn’t require facilities, teams, organisations – just get out and enjoy the environment at some level or other.

Organised sport, has limited life – some athletes peak for only a few years, and “retire” in their late 20s or early 30s. Thje media is constantly flooded with all the negative issues associated with organised sport, especially high performance sport. It’s hard to see the benefits any more; physical and mental health are constantly at risk both during the athletes involvement, and post retirement. Sport creates spectators, it relies on spectators, the focus is on winning medals.

Recreation is for life, performance can be adjusted to the individuals abilities and engement can last a lifetime, measured by personal rewards, not external results. Recreation is healthy, physically and mentally. It’s sustainable, we don’t need facilities, grounds, teams, schedules and competitions. It’s cheaper and adaptable.

Recreation supports dispersed tourism, a big factor in todays context. Conventional mass tourism concentrates in a few tourist centres and derives from mass transport and cruise ships. All this shut down over Covid. Cycling and tramping flourish, small communities are being reinvigorated by the opportunities that active recreation brings, and every dollar is locally spent, not sent offshore.

There’s a lot more I can (and maybe will) say on this – but one thing I am convinced of with over 10 years involvement in sport organisation at a national level is that we should be spending our taxes on public recreation and treating high performance sport as the business it is. Sport NZ should be made a business unit of some goverment agency, and Recreation New Zealand should be publicly funded to support the Wellbeing Economy and our Climate Change response.

Research Article: Lifelong outdoor enthusiasts’ engagement with nature-based activities later in life