A University of Canterbury postgraduate student says sports inspired people in Christchurch after the earthquakes.
Sociology honours student Sam Mills says sports provided people with a sense of normality after the quakes. He investigated hockey and rugby in Christchurch and says both sports immediately adapted to a new way of life in the city.
“Rugby changed the way they ran the primary schools competition and hockey changed the way they structured the season, introducing a summer tournament, which also provided a community platform for people to meet and talk.
“The Canterbury rugby fraternity provided normality to their community a lot faster than hockey because from the morning of September 4, 2010, rugby people were on the phone immediately rescheduling games to be played that weekend.
“It was a lot easier for the rugby people because they had more playing facilities across the city to utilize than hockey.
“Both sports took over the governance of their sport at a primary school level. Canterbury Rugby Football Union officials said they did this in order to look after the children and because they realised the schools had a lot on their plates in terms of their recovery and the personal recovery of teachers.
“Hockey said they took over the schools competition in order to track junior players from schools to clubs and to hopefully increase their retention rate. Canterbury rugby people based their recovery on a communitarian ethos. Canterbury hockey based their recovery on a neoliberal philosophy based on growth.”
Mills’s research, supervised by Associate Professor Mike Grimshaw, was built on past international case studies of using sport as a recovery tool in disaster zones such as the 2004 Asian Boxing Day tsunami and the 2003 Iraqi earthquake.
Canterbury rugby was used because of its sports history within New Zealand and is much part of New Zealand’s national identity. Hockey was adopted for the study because it is played on synthetic surfaces.
“The beauty of team sport is that you have a number of team members working towards a collective goal rather than a set of individual goals,” says Mills, who is now a statistical analyst at Statistics New Zealand.
“Living in a highly active disaster environment provides challenges for the New Zealand public and the communities they live in. By using team sport as a recovery tool, we have the potential to bring people together that have all suffered in different ways, and progress as a collective group.
“Sport covers all demographics and it looks beyond social class, religions, and disability and focuses on empowering people by bringing them together.
“Sport has the ability to provide social cohesion away from disaster zones and should be looked at by local government and agencies to encourage healthy living.”