From The Playground To The Podium

From the playground to the podium, this is how the Canadian Olympic Committee characterizes the physical fitness and sports continuum. To produce international calibre athletes we have to start young. Physical activity, exercise and games are critical from an early age.

So I wonder where today’s top athletes played as kids and where the stars of the future are playing now?

World Cup Rugby action from Auckland, New Zealand is one of this weekend’s big ticket items in international sports. On Sunday, the All Blacks take on France in the final on their home turf. Minutes before the game gets underway at Eden Park stadium, there will be some serious play as the All Blacks throw down their traditional challenge in the form of the haka.

Here’s a look at some New Zealand playgrounds (thanks again to flickr photographers) where future members of the All Blacks squad could be in early training now – developing their dexterity, building their strength and testing their physical limits.

Auckland’s best playgrounds are the subject of this New Zealand Herald story from 2010. There are some great images associated with this story too – just look for the photo link below and to the right of the story headline. So if you’re in Auckland over the weekend and looking for a positive and fun vibe before the final kicks off, check some of these playgrounds. The city also has a comprehensive online list of playgrounds that includes maps and equipment inventories but no photos.

Miramar Central School, Wellington, New Zealand. Photo credit – Mike Riversdale – Creative Commons, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Of course the playground to podium continuum flows in the opposite direction too. In North America, particularly in the US, there is a strong commitment to community and to play from a number of professional sports franchises. Some have teamed up with playground advocates like KaBOOM!

Back to rugby. I’d love to be there on Sunday hooting and hollering with the best of them, rooting for the All Blacks. It’s not that I don’t like the French. I lived in France for a couple of years as a kid during Pierre Villeneuve’s reign as captain of the French squad. No, it’s just that I like the All Blacks more. It is their esprit de corps and their ferociousness that appeal to me.

If you have any stories about sports and playgrounds (professional or amateur) we’d love to hear them @playgroundology or playgroundology@gmail.com.

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