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How boys become men

By Emily Norman

[email protected]

Three Wairarapa boys have become men after rigorous Iron Maori training that has not only enhanced their fitness, but their mana too.

Chanel College students Richie Douglas, 16, and his younger brother Fred Tai, 14, have been getting up at 5.30 most mornings with Masterton Intermediate’s Rocco Thompson, 13, to train for the Masterton Iron Maori, which was held this month.

They enjoyed it so much that they have entered the Iron Maori Napier triathlon event for December 2.

But the group would not have come together if it weren’t for Rangitane O Wairarapa Youth Coordinator Ross Thompson, who posed the Iron Maori challenge to them a couple of months ago.

Mr Thompson said the idea was to encourage the boys to use their energy to engage in positive activity in the community.

“These boys are pretty gifted when it comes to physical activity, so I posed the challenge to them, how about we look ahead and maybe enter in this Iron Maori that’s coming up?”

“I said, what that’s going to consist of is we’re going to start training every Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, so you need to be up at 5.30 in the mornings- I’ll pick you up from your home and we’ll meet, drive to a destination and run from there.

“So every Monday, Wednesday and Friday that’s been happening and these boys have been consistently there, always waiting for me when I picked them up.”

“I’m even starting to have to ride my bike now when they’re running- just to keep up with them.”

Fred Tai, Rocco Thompson, and Richie Douglas, put their best foot forward for the Iron Maori duathlon event in Masterton. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Fred Tai, Rocco Thompson, and Richie Douglas, put their best foot forward for the Iron Maori duathlon event in Masterton. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Richie said the Iron Maori preparation gave him a “buzz”- “just running around and achieving something in the morning makes you feel good about yourself”.

“It sort of helps out with life- takes your mind off stuff and just makes you more relaxed.”

He said he had learned vital lessons from the experience.

“A bit of training leads to success, I guess,” he said.

“It’s an important lesson to learn at a young age.”

For the Napier Iron Maori triathlon event, Fred will be cycling, Richie will be swimming, and Rocco will be running.

Mr Thompson said the biggest improvement he had noticed in the boys was “their mana has been enhanced”.

“The boys are feeling really good about themselves, ready to attack anything,” he said.

“Their whole attitude has changed, and it’s even been reported through their teachers to their principals that this is the case too.”

As part of the boys’ preparation for Iron Maori, they did after-school labour work to raise money and gain sponsorship.

One of the biggest challenges was moving 3000 sileage pit tyres for a Wairarapa farmer.

“One thing I always tell youth I work with is that sport plays a key role in our lives,” Mr Thompson said.

“You gain basic skills and attributes like turning up, being able to train hard, staying committed and dedicated, and following things through.

“These are all transferrable skills through to employment- if you’re good enough, people will make a job for you to be there.”

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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