By Steve Landells
Recently installed Athletics NZ Get Set Go manager Stephanie Cunningham hopes to oversee the next phase of the popular fundamental movement skills programme by making further inroads into the club athletics scene.
Since the beginning of 2012 more than 30,000 school kids aged between three and seven have participated in Get Set Go as the programme has been rolled out across dozens of primary schools up and down the country.
Yet with Get Set Go now a part of Athletics New Zealand’s Club Endorsement programme, Steph hopes more clubs will seek to introduce the initiative, which aims to improve children’s skills and increase their physical activity through fun and purposeful games and activities.
“For me, this should be a priority programme because when it is delivered properly, it is fantastic,” explains Steph, who believes the Wellington and Auckland regions are making significant progress on the club scene with Get Set Go, but she is striving for further traction across the length and breadth of New Zealand. “The programme can help produce better movers, and helps make athletics more fun. In this way, I’m sure it can play its part in helping avoid that drop off when many kids aged seven or eight lose interest in the sport.
“I’m new to the national role and while some regions are doing really well with Get Set Go, some regions don’t have the capability or man-power to run certain programmes. Most people have heard of Get Set Go and many clubs want it. It is my role to help implement and embed Get Set Go into the club system and for me to understand more about what is going on in each region and how best to support implementation.”
Steph is a long-time advocate of the Get Set Go programme. Before taking up her current role with Athletics NZ in June she worked as the Get Set Go Regional Co-ordinator and Community School Sport Co-ordinator for Sport Auckland, where she experienced first-hand the benefits of the initiative.
“Working with Get Set Go as the national manager is a great opportunity to extend the work I did at a regional level with Get Set Go in Auckland,” she adds. “I love the philosophy of Get Set Go and I believe it targets a child holistically,” she explains.
“Yes, it works on the physical movements and develops the fundamentals, which are important, but it also looks into far more than can a child run, jump or skip. It also works on a child’s social and cognitive development through playing games.”
Not only does she believe the youngsters benefit from the programme, but also parents, teachers and coaches.
“Get Set Go is a great educational tool in that primary school space,” she adds. “It provides professional development to upskill teachers so they can gain knowledge, understanding and confidence in teaching fundamental movement skills (FMS), which makes Get Set Go very valuable .”
Since the launch of the initiative in 2011 approximately 600 teachers and more than 100 coaches have become fully qualified in leading the Get Set Go programme. The benefits of the scheme are clear according to Steph, but the programme does face future funding challenges. In January Active Post's three-year sponsorship of the initiative came to an end and a new commercial partner is being sought.
Yet Steph is confident of its future and prefers to dwell on the vibrancy of the programme, which she believes ticks all the boxes as a great fundamental skills initiative.
“I believe it is the number one fundamental skills programme in the country and I really want to share that knowledge and develop Get Set Go through the country,” she adds. “All sports, not just athletics, can benefit from the movement skills of Get Set Go. It would be great to target more youngsters in that early childhood space and also develop a really good online resource for the programme.
“In an ideal world Get Set Go would it be implemented in every school in New Zealand and I would love to see more athletics clubs embracing the programme for its youngsters,” she adds.
More information about Get Set Go
*** Get Set Go will be one of the activities showcased at the NZ Post Active Family Fun Day at AUT’s South Campus at 640 Great South Road, Manukau on Sunday October 18 between noon - 4:00pm. The day offers a range of opportunities to try various sports.
More details nzpost.co.nz/funday