Sports stars giving back at AIMS Games

Black Sticks player Amy Robinson (centre) with her Tauranga Intermediate hockey team. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services

Amy Robinson works full-time at Tauranga Intermediate, travels to Auckland three times a week to train with the Black Sticks and still dabbles in track and field when she gets the chance.

Somehow, the 21-year-old also finds time to coach her school’s Anchor AIMS Games girls’ hockey team, one of a number of sporting stars giving back to next week’s annual intermediate-aged tournament.

The AIMS Games has special resonance for Robinson, who made her Black Sticks debut last year – she played two years for the Tauranga Intermediate team in 2007 and 2008, coming away with a silver medal in her first year.

“That silver was the best we’d ever done, until last year when we finally broke though and won,” Robinson, who works as the assistant sports coordinator said. “It made it pretty special to go one better last year and hopefully we can go back and get a medal again this year. Back in 2007, as an 11-year-old, AIMS was huge for me but even now as an adult, with all the growth it’s had, it seems equally huge. It’s awesome to still be part of it.”

Amy Robinson. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services

More than 10,100 competitors will line up from Sunday in the six-day tournament in Tauranga, representing more than 300 different schools, all of them chasing medals and cherished memories.

And included in the coaching ranks are a clutch of Olympians and former internationals.

Ricki Herbert, who played for and coached the All Whites at two World Cups, is now the coach of the St Peter’s boys football team in Cambridge, with former Silver Fern Amigene Metcalfe and Olympic swimmer Alison Fitch also on the St Peter’s coaching roster.

Tu Umaga-Marshall is coaching the Titahi Bay rugby sevens team, having played basketball at NBL level, sevens for New Zealand and Super Rugby, while former Samoan netball star and current Samoa coach Frances Solia is managing the St Margaret’s swimming and cross country teams.

Former All Black lock Chresten Davis is branching out, meanwhile, managing the Cambridge Middle School multisport team, which consists of his son Liam.

And like Robinson, former AIMS players are now starting to give back to the tournament.

Berkley netball coach Kirra Savill is back at the AIMS Games, having won as a 12-year-old. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services

Kirra Savill is coaching defending netball champions Berkley Normal Middle School from Hamilton, having played for the champion Berkley team when they made their AIMS debut in 2005.
“It was my first big experience with a proper netball tournament week and it was thoroughly enjoyable – although pretty tiring – for a 12-year-old girl who hadn’t played a lot of netball,” Savill recalls.

She’s a huge supporter of the AIMS concept and only has to look back on her own experiences to see what it gave her.

“I’m still in contact with most of the netball team that played in 2005 – we try to catch up once a year and do that thing where you try and reenact old photos from when we were 12. I’m still really good friends with a few of the girls and it’s just something we’ve never forgotten and really brought us together as friends.”

The tournament starts on Sunday with cross country, gym sports and sailing, along with a double opening ceremony because of huge demand.

All AIMS Games coaches throughout New Zealand were offered free ACC SportSmart Warm Up workshops this year, with ACC also hosting a series of warm up zones throughout the venues. ACC ambassadors include All White star Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, former Silver Fern Leana de Bruin, New Zealand sevens players Scott Curry and Selica Winiata and Tall Black Paora Winitana.

A number of Olympians – including sailors Andy Maloney and Josh Junior, middle distance star Nikki Hamblin and swimmer Melissa Ingram will also attend the tournament.