Basketball has overtaken rugby as the second-highest participated secondary school sport in New Zealand behind netball.
Figures from the recently released School Sport New Zealand Census show 26,481 secondary school students played for a basketball team at school in 2018 — an increase of three per cent from 2017.
Meanwhile, rugby's figures dropped six per cent from 2017 with 25,317 secondary school students playing the sport last year.
"This growth is not a surprise for us. We've seen the growth of this participation-trend since the Census began," Basketball New Zealand chief executive Ian Potter says.
However, while basketball was attracting more secondary schools participants than any before, Potter said the sport's popularity was not matched by financial support.
"There's been some great work by the basketball community to foster the opportunities for kids to play, but we could have achieved so much more if the support from central government, the Ministry of Education, local councils and funders corresponded with this vast growth. Basketball-participation has almost doubled in just 10 years, whereas basketball's funding certainly hasn't," he says.
"To play, kids need opportunities with a ball, coach and a court. This relentless growth has seen basketball facilities become prime real-estate, with court bookings bursting. And the majority of our associations are at their wits-end trying to get enough support to provide coaches, referees, and venues for their players and leagues.
"We have big ambitions. With backing, we can achieve huge things as a national sport. I think Basketball New Zealand and our associations do a great job with what it has. The basketball community has created more tournaments, provided a better pathway for our junior elite players, provided more coaching and referee workshops than ever before. That said, the basketball community can do so much more.
Despite suffering a five per cent drop, netball remains the most popular sport for secondary students with 27,139 participants last year.
Football (23,513) and volleyball (17,466) round out the top-five.
TOP FIVE MOST-PARTICPATED SECONDARY SCHOOL SPORTS: