New Zealand perform the Haka (Reuters)
New Zealand, in relationship to population is way ahead in the prowess in international sporting performances.
In the annuls of modern sport New Zealanders have excelled on the world stage and with a national population of under 4 million - with tribal allegiances in regions and Island states. Honours with the inherent competition has been phenomenally powerful in achieving sporting accolades.
This article is not about highlighting names (there are way too many), nor specific sporting performances that have turned heads on every continent, nor the clarion calls of political grandstanding when their own have achieved.
Rather it is an attempt to analyse the nature of the Kiwi character that has lent itself to such outstanding performances to international acclaim – not once or twice – rather over and over again.
I have been very fortunate to have seen numerous international Kiwi sporting performances up close and personal. For 17 years to 2001 I served as the Australian cricket team chaplain which included tours to New Zealand and hosting the Black Caps on tour in Australia. For 24 years I wrote hockey for The Australian newspaper (and five books on world hockey) and this reporting included many Olympics and as an Olympic chaplain saw all athletes from a wide variety of sports. In 2009 I was awarded the Olympic Ministry Medal by Carl Lewis the Olympian of the Century.
These experiences have provided me ample opportunity to meet elite Kiwi athletes, see them in action, and chat with them in a variety of different capacities along with meeting many young Kiwi's through our young writer ministry.
These are my cursory reflections
The ANZAC spirit is an unseen, unmeasured, unsanctified expression of solidarity toward each other that nothing can shift. It was illustrated in WWI at both Gallipoli and on every other military front. This mateship defined the Kiwi character, your mate will, yes, will die for you. Put that ingrained sentiment onto the sporting field and you have a winning combination.
The Kiwi's from the time they can breathe think 'winning' – it is a spirit ingrained into their spirit from the cradle. They hear their parents and significant others talk of their national teams' sporting prowess and this is transferred into the national psyche as winners are grinners and never ever – never ever - look back – you're willing to give your all and more for this stuff. No sacrifice is enough.
Respect your opponent is such a powerful sentiment and Kiwi elite athletes across the board have this in spades. They are led from nippers that your opponent is as hungry as you are, and that spirit is to be respected, for if you disrespect your opponent you have cheated them and more so yourself. You can only truly win if you respect your opponent as that is the only way to offer your utmost best.
These three ingredients have seen New Zealand All Backs, Rugby League, Cricket, Netball, Hockey, Track & Field, Rowers, Canoeists, Basketballers, Soccer, Archers … you name it, they've been champions and world beaters.
There are a few other things: New Zealanders are naturally hardy types, been trekking from the size of a grasshopper, average height statistics are greater than many other nations and what's more, Kiwi's on the most part have loads of common sense and nothing is as important as this on the sporting field.
Moreover, as long as they beat the Aussies, (almost) anything else is secondary.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html