Not just netball: Scholarship programme is a “life school”

Bungee jumping, horse trekking and self defense training are just some of the perks five young netballers will be treated to during a six month intensive training stint in Auckland.

High Wire Charitable Trust has awarded scholarships to five emerging netballers from Samoa, and five from the Cook Islands to participate in a Pacific Islands Netball Academy based in Papakura.

Its goal is to not only provide specialist netball coaching and fitness training, but also to empower young women with life skills, leadership abilities and academic knowledge.

High Wire intends to support their scholarship winners to become “pillars of the community.” 

By the end of the six month programme, the participants will have a Work Place First Aid Course and New Zealand Certificate in Sports and Recreation under their belt, two internationally recognized qualifications.

Gaufa Frances Salesa, Safa’avaoa Esau Fitu, Summer Sula Tuamasaga Schuster, Rosabel Tuatagaloa and Lovel Mesepa Parker are the five scholarship winners and leave for New Zealand on Sunday.

Gaufa Frances Salesa (21), Safa’avaoa Esau Fitu (19), and Summer Sula Tuamasaga Schuster (20) spoke to the Samoa Observer ahead of their departure.

Sula said the programme’s mix of training, education and community work is a great opportunity.

“This is supposed to teach us independence. We will be there without too much support, so we’ll learn how to live by ourselves,” said Sula.

“It’s not just a sports scholarship, it’s a life school for us.”

The five Samoan women will share a home with the five Cook Island women and will live independently. For these women, it will be their first time living without their parents. 

“We provide our own food and do our own cooking, it’s like a normal day at home,” said Gaufa.

“Except with nine other women!” added Sula.

Gaufa said she’s excited to be able to eat healthily while in New Zealand, which can sometimes be a challenge at home.

“In New Zealand there will be protein, vitamins and minerals that a player needs on a daily basis, which will help with training,” she said.

“Here in Samoa I want to cook healthy, but you can’t help it if your budget is really low.”

High Wire Chief Executive Officer David Hopkins said the communal living element of the programme is just as important as the fitness training or learning.

Dividing up chores and taking shared responsibility for the greater good of the house builds teamwork, Mr Hopkins said.

“Makes you better as a team so that you are paddling the waka (va’a) in the same direction, not in different directions, and then jumping off it.”

The programme schedule is intense from the beginning, starting with a two week orientation to meet the Cook Island players and get to know each other.

From then on, the programme is divided into training, working in the community, and studying for the qualifications. 

Whilst in Auckland, the women will work towards achieving a Work Place First Aid Course and New Zealand Certificate in Sports and Recreation, valid for NZQA Level two and three credits.

“Working in the community and learning at the same time is a plus for us,” said Gaufa.

“That way you are experiencing what you are writing down on paper.”

But the experience in the field, and new netball skills are still the focus for these emerging players, and hopefully a spot in the South Pacific Games netball team, said Sula.

The women will all be under close scrutiny during their scholarship as it is also their trial for the SPG team.

 “We are multi-tasking overseas, not just training and working, but on trial too,” said Sula.

An important component of the programme is community service and hosting netball clinics for school students.

The three women said they are excited to pass on their training and learnings to other children.  

“We have all come through doing clinics and gone through the process of helping kids,” said Gaufa.

Safa’avaoa used to coach a netball team in Samoa and said she is excited to coach and train over in Auckland.

“We are used to it but it will be different in a different country,” she said.

Mr Hopkins said it’s important to look after children who are disengaged, and disenfranchised from mainstream education.

“By coming along to their schools, to my gymnasium, your netballers will help the generation below them,” he said.

High Wire is an organisation that is bringing together sports and recreation with adventure activities and education designed to boost the self-esteem of youth, especially those who are at risk of leaving the school system early.

Mr Hopkins said this netball programme is all about taking the women out of their comfort zones and pushing them to push themselves.

“There is nothing hard, nothing they can’t do, just activities that will make them better people,” he said.

“Some of those activities, you have to dig deep to do.”

Activities like bungee jumping, abseiling and rock climbing are fun, challenging and also contribute towards team building, Mr Hopkins said.

The women will have to encourage and support each other to do potentially difficult things which will bring them closer as a team.

“Everyone is mission focused, as we say in the army: there for the task, not for ourselves.”

Mr Hopkins spent 39 years in the military in New Zealand which has inspired the work he does at High Wire to encourage and empower youth to harness education for their futures.

He said the values of integrity and honesty he learned in the military have helped him, and he wants to pass that on to the players in this programme.

“They are there to become better netballers right, they have fitness programmes and tests they have to do, but I hope your girls will come back stronger, fitter, and with new direction and values for life,” he said.

“We’ll make them better netball players but also better people inside.”

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