Taranaki sports stars Zoe Hobbs, Conrad Smith share tips with next generation

By Contributor
Sprinter Zoe Hobbs told a cross-code gathering of parents and coaches at Inglewood’s TET Stadium that she got stuck into netball, basketball, gymnastics, and volleyball as well as running when she was at high school. Photo: Supplied / Stuff

By Community Sport, Stuff

Record-breaking Taranaki sprint champion Zoe Hobbs may have been lost to athletics if her parents had not helped her keep things fun as a kid.

Speaking to a cross-code gathering of parents and coaches at Inglewood’s TET Stadium, Hobbs said she when she started picking up athletics wins as a girl, she remembers a coach wanting her to drop other sports and focus on athletics.

“I’m very lucky that Dad had actually replied to that coach and basically said ‘no she can do whatever sport she wants for as long as she wants, she’s only 11 years old she should be having fun’ … I’m so grateful that he, and my Mum, allowed me to have that freedom in sport.”

Hobbs, looking fresh and relaxed after setting a new Oceania 100m record recently, said as a youngster she loved giving everything a go – getting stuck into netball, basketball, gymnastics, and volleyball along with her running and her parents supported her to try as many different sports as she liked.

“There was never ever that pressure from their end to continue with the sport if I didn’t like it or find value in it…that is what allowed me to thrive in the sport.”

Hobbs said mixing things up helped keep the pressure off her and stopped things getting too serious well before they needed to.

“I don’t know if I would still be doing athletics now if I specialised early.”

Former All Black Conrad Smith said he never trained more than two nights a week for rugby until he got his first professional contract. Supplied / Stuff

Former All Black Conrad Smith, who also spoke at the gathering, echoed Hobbs’ thoughts saying he was still playing cricket, along with all the different sports he could until he landed his first Hurricanes contract aged 22.

“I never trained more than two nights a week for rugby until I got my first professional contract,” Smith said.

Smith said he saw professional rugby players who had only “lived and breathed” one sport and sadly he had also seen the personal cost that it could take on them.

It was the fun of being in teams with your mates that drove a lot of his early sporting passion – and that’s the sort of culture that needed to be encouraged, Smith said.

Sport New Zealand Development Consultant Kelly Curr, thanked sporting parents for their efforts, laying out statistics showing significant drop off in sports participation and activity when people hit their mid-teens.

Keeping young people in sport was a challenge that parents played a large part in, Curr said.

Sport Taranaki Coaching Advisor Guy Honnor also paid tribute to parents’ contribution to sports – revealing that feedback from talented young athletes in the Future Champions programme showed that positive parental support was vital.

The top three attributes for supportive parents they cited were assistance with travel to practice or games, “just being there supporting no matter what” and “telling me they love watching me play,” Honnor said.