The wonderland of winter sports

winter sport - kids playing football / soccer

It’s that time again. Winter sports are part and parcel of growing up in New Zealand. But which sport will best suit your child? And how do you encourage those kids who are less interested?

It’s part of being a kiwi kid – trudging to the local sports field or court during the winter, kicking or throwing a ball around and defrosting afterwards with a hot chocolate”

Just like when we were kids, winter sport is still an important and beneficial part of our children’s growing up experience. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of having a change of sport between winter and summer as this builds up different skills and muscles, which could mean less injuries and better overall skills in the long run. With so many options to choose from, it’s a challenge to decide exactly which sport to enrol your kid in. There are many things to consider before signing your parental consent form, including what sport will best suit your child’s temperament, fit in with your family life and what the family budget can handle.


Netball is a hugely popular team sport, for boys as well as girls. A little harder for the younger ones to fathom the rules with the strict offside areas that come with each different position, but this doesn’t seem to affect the popularity of the game. Great for hand-eye coordination and catching/throwing skills, this is a fast and fun team sport, with the advantage that most schools have teams, and parent or
teacher coaches/managers help keep the costs down.


Hockey is played widely in schools and in leagues around the country, with the game becoming increasingly popular with boys in recent times, as the NZ Black Sticks gain popularity and success. HockeyNZ is rolling out a new initiative to encourage kids to get involved through their Smallsticks Programme, so keep an eye out for new coaching and support for younger players. Each region of NZ has a hockey association which can help you locate a nearby team.


For many years in NZ, soccer was the starter sport of choice, with older kids moving onto rugby. These days, many of our kids stick with soccer as they get older, but either way, it remains the perfect start for smaller kids, with many clubs offering leagues for kids as young as preschool. The basic skills are transferrable to other sports and the style of the game makes it less intimidating for less confident players.


Futsal is hugely popular in Brazil and is gaining momentum here too. Translated, the name means soccer indoors. It is very focused on skills, with less contact and the big advantage of being in a weatherproof indoor venue.


Rugby union and league remain one of most widely played sports in the country, with some of the best resources. The popularity of somewhere like an NRL shop can vouch for this. The advantage of this popularity is that there are plenty of clubs to choose from for your child. For younger players, there are junior leagues that offer an adapted form of the game called Rippa rugby.


While gymnastics, trampoline and dance are not purely winter sports, winter is the perfect time to have a look at what’s on offer, especially if you have a summer sports fan child who wants to up-skill or try something new, or if you have a child who is not a natural team sport member. For a list of national gymnastics clubs:

There’s no reason that your child can’t try a sport for a season and move on if it doesn’t suit them. In fact, varying sporting codes over the years of their childhood can have many benefits – they’ll learn a variety of physical skills and get to be part of different teams.

In fact, some sports are more suitable for older age-groups, with rugby being the most obvious example. Many kids start with soccer as 4- or 5-year-olds and move up to full contact sports like rugby around age 9, when they are a bit older and stronger.

A socially isolated child may benefit from becoming involved in a team sport, especially in a supportive atmosphere. If you are wanting to get your non-social child involved in a team sport, then check out the club first to make sure all types of players are catered for and (initially at least) put them in a less competitive, social team.


Not all kids are interested in sports; in fact some are downright resistant. The battle is more easily won if you start your child young; kids naturally love movement and fun. Most often, resistance is due to lack of confidence or anxiety, rather than a dislike of sport. This can be more easily overcome through being careful about what teams your child is in (for example, a strict, overly competitive coach would put a less confident child off, as would a team full of potential rep players running rings around your child). As a parent, it helps if you are excited about the sport and actively involved with the team too.

Winter sports are a great way to keep your kid fit and develop their social skills, don’t let a bit of rain and wind put you off – it’s worth it!


The cost of winter sports can be limiting to some families. If you’re keen to get your child involved, but wary of blowing the budget, here are a few things you can do.

  • Carpool. Take turns filling up the car with kids and save a fortune on petrol.
  • Pack plenty of snacks and liquids so you don’t get caught out and end up overspending on post-game treats.
  • Ask your club if you can pay the subs for the season in installments; many clubs will offer this option.
  • Start a uniform exchange. Hook up with other families and play hand-me-downs with outgrown uniforms.


Let’s face it, a winter sport is a whole family commitment, even if it’s only one kid playing one game on a Saturday morning. Set yourself up with a comprehensive family ‘game plan’ to make the season more enjoyable and less stressful for everyone.

  • Encourage independence with older kids and their sports kits. Make sure they have everything packed the night before, including the inevitable missing boots/bibs/balls, preventing last-minute delays as you head out the door.
  • Look after yourself: make sure you carry some snacks to keep you going, plenty of warm layers and every parent’s special friend – the hot water bottle, great for keeping you warm during the match and a treat for your cold child after the game.
  • Pack healthy, post-match snacks the night before – so that hungry, grumpy kids don’t get you frazzled on the way home.


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