Softball players connect with schools for cultural exchange

Students in Auckland and Palmerston North had a unique opportunity to learn about Japanese and Filipino cultures when the respective softball teams visited New Zealand for the WBSC Men's Softball World Cup 2022.

Japanese players and students pose for a group photo in a school hall

Thanks to the Foundation’s strategic partnership fund (Sports), the visits allowed the players to share softball tips and offer insights into their cultures, while the students reciprocated with powhiri and waiata. 

The participating schools were Birkdale North Intermediate, Glenfield Intermediate, and One Tree Hill College, which hosted the Philippines team; while Silverdale Primary School and Manukura School in Palmerston North welcomed the Japanese team. About 600 students got to take part in the visits and hear from the players.

Students and Japanese players line up to bump elbows

Shanelle: "Sport is a powerful tool for encouraging students to be inspired to get involved and be proud of their achievements."

The school visits were a once-in-a-life-time experience for the students and also the players, says Shanelle Barrett from the tournament's organising committee. 

She says the experience was invaluable for the students as it provided a real connection that went beyond what they could get online.

 “Sport is a powerful tool for encouraging students to be inspired to get involved and be proud of their achievements. 

“Having international sportspeople actually visit a school and talk about their cultures brings [those cultures] to life and makes them more real - a big difference from reading on the internet.” 


A Japanese player hitting the ball against Australia

A Japanese player hitting the ball against Australia

Not only were these school visits impactful for the students, but they were also highly meaningful for the two teams themselves.  

The Philippines team expressed their gratitude, stating that their experience in New Zealand was possibly the best they had encountered while participating in a major tournament.  

The athletes, coaches, and management were particularly appreciative of the school visits and the opportunity they afforded for them to get a taste of the local culture. 

Students sitting in a stand waving and holding signs supporting the Japanese softball team

Students from the host schools were a great source of support for the visiting teams

In addition to the team visits, the schools were invited to attend a World Cup game to support the team that had visited their school.

Each school received complimentary tickets for 45 students and five teachers/support staff to enjoy the game. Furthermore, as a token of appreciation, the schools were gifted a complete softball kit and an official WBSC poster signed by the entire team. 

Shanelle emphasizes that the support from the schools during the World Cup games were great motivators for the teams. 

“The schools were very vocal with their chanting, which was appreciated by the players. It was a fantastic opportunity to inspire the students to get involved in the game of softball,” she says. 

The Foundation’s sports programme provides New Zealand sportspeople opportunities to grow more knowledgeable, connected and confident with Asia. 

The strategic partnership fund is for the Foundation to develop long-term partnerships with major sporting organisations to deliver projects or events that increase New Zealanders' knowledge and awareness of Asia and build confidence when interacting with the region.