Professional athletes are lifting sport participation among Southland youngsters.
Southland Sharks general manager Jill Bolger said it was "vitally important" for children to interact with the basketball players and equally important for the players themselves to share their knowledge and teach them.
On Wednesday budding Southland basketball players got the chance to learn basketball skills from the SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks players.
Southland Basketball development officer Dan Peck and Southland Sharks players Derone Raukawa and Luke Aston were at ILT Stadium Southland to teach the youngsters their tricks and have some fun at the the Southland Shooters Holiday Basketball Programme.
It was a great opportunity for the young ones to rub shoulders with the stars, Bolger said.
There were plenty of opportunities for children to meet top athletes in the south, because of the region's franchised teams, including the Sharks, Southland Stags and Southern Steel, she said.
Southland Sharks players had helped out with programmes in the past whenever they were in town and available, and also took part in autograph signings and school talks, she said.
The basketball holiday programme ran until the end of the school holidays, and had about 30 children in each session.
Children aged 3 to 10 years old benefited from participation, achievement, confidence and getting a feel for the game, Bolger said.
"They get a taste of basketball."
The programme was one of many activities on offer to keep children active and involved in sport in the holidays, which was positive, she said.
Having the Southland Sharks players help out with programmes was a "magnet", especially for boys, she said.
After meet and greets with players, there was a large increase in the number of boys taking up basketball, she said.
Southland Basketball development officer and SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks players Derone Raukawa and Luke Aston help teach Southland kids basketball skills at the Southland Shooters Holiday Basketball Programme. Article and photo courtesy of The Southland Times.