Canterbury Rugby League’s commitment to providing its community with valuable life skills outside of the rugby league sphere – as well as a desire to directly mitigate Aotearoa’s worrying preventable drowning figures – has prompted the establishment of a free swimming lessons programme for our tamariki from 2024.

The programme is a collaboration between CRL and UP Foundation, which supports tamariki and their whānau to participate in community-led activities by facilitating fee-free activities.

“The initiative is based around Water Safety New Zealand’s annual drowning statistics, where the data is clear that Māori and Pasifika are over-represented in preventable drownings,” Canterbury Rugby League CEO Malcolm Humm said.

“As a sport where 75 percent of its membership is from the Māori or Pasifika community, Canterbury Rugby League believes we have a responsibility to support our rugby league community in learning life skills and keeping our people safe.”

Any eight-year-old registered with a Canterbury Rugby League club in 2024 will receive free swimming lessons during terms 2 and 3 this year (the opportunity has been extended to nine-year-olds in some areas and at smaller clubs).

The initiative will also see eight-year-olds move through to free swimming lessons as nine-year-olds in 2025 as the next group of eight-year-olds come through. Canterbury Rugby League plans on offering our tamariki three years (eight-, nine- and 10-year-olds) of the programme.

The support of Waimakariri District Council, Selwyn District Council and Christchurch City Council is vital and greatly appreciated, providing the pools and facilities to roll out the swimming lessons.

“This programme also aligns with our 2023-26 Strategic Plan, where a key goal is that ‘our membership develops holistically through the support of CRL personal development programmes’,” Humm continued.

“We recognise that, yes, we are the sport of rugby league, and we deliver as such – however, we have a wider responsibility to support and enhance the lives of our people. This initiative is very much in line with this goal.

“Having UP Foundation support CRL’s campaign to get this underway has been significant – without them this wouldn’t be able to happen. We also acknowledge the support of Rata Foundation, who have supported both Canterbury Rugby League and UP Foundation to deliver free swimming lessons to our community.”

UP Foundation have been working with Te Atatū Rugby League Club since July 2023 funding free swimming lessons for their Playgroup.

“UP Foundation are excited about working with the Canterbury Rugby League community,” Operations Lead Kevin Sinnott said.

“It has been great meeting with club volunteers over the last six months and seeing the passion they have to support their tamariki and their wider community.

“The goal is that by 2026, every kid playing rugby league in Canterbury has access to free swimming lessons.”

When asked about the local clubs’ uptake on this valuable opportunity, Humm said they have jumped at the chance and see it as a real benefit to their membership.

As well as equipping youngsters with potentially life-saving skills, it is forecast that the initiative could also lead to vocational opportunities for our rangatahi in the future, including roles as swim instructors and lifeguards.

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