He Tamariki Otangarei winners in every way

He Tamariki o Otangarei Junior Rugby coach, Marcelle Kaipo describes the rugby players and their whānau from Otangarei as being hungry to achieve their goals. And that positive momentum is continually building!

Marcelle coaches He Tamariki o Otangarei under-11 rugby team that has a prodigious culture of achievement. They have challenged themselves at the Junior Rugby Festival in Taupo for the last four years, coming close in the finals on three occasions. While winning competitions would be great, it’s just one of the goals the team and their whānau have set themselves.

Marcelle wears two hats with the team – one as the head coach and the other as a youth worker for the Otangarei Trust. He Tamariki o Otangarei was initially designed to use rugby as a forum to connect with whānau and support them for future endeavours.

Hard work earns good rewards

“We wanted to change the culture of dependency that has taken hold in our community. We’ve been inundated with services for so long that we’ve become dependant on them. People are used to hand-outs. Our goal is to change that culture. We want to show our kids and their whānau that rewards are earned when you work hard.”

The annual rugby tournament in Taupo became the end goal. How they got there was the crucial part.

“We started by sitting down with the kids and their whānau to come up with some goals. We used the PATH planning tool, a creative process that uses symbols and colours to map out a plan. The plan iāncludes dreams and aspirations, achievements, and a reflection on values. This sits alongside an action plan. This way of planning is championed by Kataraina Pipi, (Ngāti Porou/Ngāti Hine). All our planning so far has been done by the children and driven by their whānau. Our initial plan was for six weeks. The next was three months, then twelve months, now our children are looking at creating a two-year plan.”

Pledge to live ethically

As part of that planning process, the group has created and signed up to a pledge that provides them with a set of values to live by. “This is what they want, and that’s why they are successful,” says Marcelle.

The Pledge covers life on and off the rugby field. Helping out at home is included, as is having a good attitude and attendance at school.

This year the supporters are creating their own pledge about behaviour off the field.

“Their aim is to support their tamariki in a respectful way. They were inspired to do this as they have come to love the culture and the attitudes they see their young people demonstrating. We all had to learn two waiata and a haka for the tournament which helped our whānau to understand who they are and where they come from.”

E Tū Whānau strong foundation

Marcelle started drawing on the E Tū Whānau values when he came across them a year ago. The have joined forces with E Tū Whānau staff member Shirleyanne Brown and organised three wananga over the course of a year to help create a shared understanding of their goals, and to create a group identity.

“We are using the wānanga based around E Tu Whānau principles to help us create a strong foundation. E Tū Whānau fits us perfectly. We didn’t have to change our programme, or reinvent ourselves. The values have benefited more than our team culture – they have filtered into our children’s homes.”

“We have had so much benefit from the E Tū Whānau movement, because it bolsters our programme and helps us understand what we are doing. We knew we were doing something positive, and now we see why it works. E Tū Whānau has given us a sense of direction for how to go forward. We will continue that relationship because it has helped us to grow.”

Positive role models

Successful sports identities are important for inspiring the young players and their whānau.

“We bring in players and coaches to talk about the temptations and hardships they have faced. They also talk about people who’ve influenced them, and what they sacrificed to get to where they are.”

Marcelle says the players are often under a lot of pressure from whānau to succeed in their sport, but they need to realise that only one percent make it in the sporting world. “It’s dangerous to put all your eggs in one basket. We are always talking to them about options. Rugby is not the only option. It needs to be balanced with education.”

Keeping momentum going

Marcelle is confident that whānau will continue to set the goal posts high. “Four years ago we started with 10 kids, two coaches and five or six parents. This year we will took 83 whānau members to the Junior Rugby Festival in Taupo! Our families have moved from being stagnant to moving forward together.

“With the help of good values, great tools, and working together, they are changing the culture to one where they now see how they can earn the life they want, the life they are entitled to.”