By Dasha Kuprienko
Wintec journalism student
There will be some fairly empty classes at Purua School this week – six of the seven Year 7 and 8 students enrolled are all playing squash at the NZCT AIMS Games in Tauranga.
The tiny rural school north of Whangarei has only 31 students in total and one nearly a quarter of them are involved in the racquet sport.
Team manager Fiona Moselen said squash was ideal for students Genghis Gardes, Zoe Palmer, Anaru Mead, Lucia Daamen-Shanahan, Maris Dalagneau and daughter Anna, as the likes of netball and rugby sevens are out of the question.
“Because we are such a small school, we don’t really have the numbers to make teams,” she said.
It all started when a squash coach joined the school for 10 weeks as a part of a local sport programme. Since then, squash has boomed.
Children love the sport for the independence it gives them and don’t mind playing a non-team sport – in fact, first-time AIMS Games participant Gardes, 12, admits it’s now his favourite.
“When I played rugby, I hardly ever got the ball,” he said, to the amusement of his teammates.
Another squash enthusiast and fellow 12-year-old Mead agrees: “You don’t have to give the ball to anyone else, just to people on a court.”
Purua raised $600 by organising a small squash tournament for juniors to help them get to this year’s AIMS Games.
Before heading to the Games, the team had extra training every Friday and participated in a few local tournaments to toughen them up.
“Zoe and Anaru both played at AIMS Games last year so they knew what to expect and were really determined to play this year,” Moselene said. “The others have just been absolute beginners from the start of this year.”