Real Life

Former Silver Ferns April Ieremia next big challenge

The former TV star is back in the public eye and revelling in her new passion

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen former Silver Fern, broadcaster and TV presenter April Ieremia in the media – in fact, it’s been 10 years.

But here she is as gorgeous as ever at 54, bright and bouncy, and doesn’t seem to have aged at all while she’s been away from the spotlight.

“I can thank my mother Edith for those genes,” laughs April.

So why has she been keeping away from the cameras and the exposure?

“To be honest, I just didn’t think I was that interesting,” she says. “So, if I thought that, why would anyone else think I was interesting?”

The hot-shot Silver Fern (left) with her “inspirational” mum Edith, who lives with the star and her two children.

An assistant coach for the Marvels netball team, April explains she has returned to her passion, where she started out in her first job as a PE teacher in Christchurch back in the early ’90s.

As a sports manager at Westlake Girls’ High School on Auckland’s North Shore, she spends her days getting hundreds of students organised in sport.

“At the moment, I’m all about volleyball,” she says. “It’s easy, fun and it’s cheap, so it’s the perfect vehicle to get everyone into something. And it’s just gone boom!”

April began coaching the premier netball team when her daughter Atlanta started at the school.

“We had really good success and took the team to its best-ever performances nationally – second at New Zealand Secondary Schools Championship in 2018 and third the following year. I started as sports manager in 2019 and it is something that really resonates with me.

‘I’ve gone from playing intense sports when I was young to just walking’

“When I was in sports broadcasting, it really resonated with me too, but lifestyle television? Not so much,” she laughs.

“This job is perfect for me and it’s not like I’m starting out in something completely new. I’ve been coaching for a while now.”

April says even though she spent a lot of time in high-performance sport as a Silver Fern, she can see the value in everybody just being active, regardless of the intensity.

And that’s the real reason April is back in the media spotlight, to help with a new campaign launched by Sport NZ called #itsmymove, which is designed to help young women get and stay active.

Research shows that 90 percent of young women want to be active and 96 percent of young women understand why physical activity is important to them, but there are clear factors putting them off. Those include body image, judgement, time pressures, motivation and loss of fun.

‘It’s easy, it’s fun and it’s cheap… And it’s just gone boom!’

“I’m keen to help #itsmymove by talking about it as much as I can because it’s such a good idea and it’s where I live now. I’m in this space of helping young women exercise and I want

it to grow,” she tells.

“For me, it’s a lot about helping them to build confidence. The whole social media thing is so massive and I’ve seen through my daughter Atlanta, who is 19, how influenced they can be by it.

“Some of the statistics around that are incredible with 68 percent not wanting to get active because of the whole body image thing and how people perceive them.”

April says one way to change this is to encourage girls to practise self-love.

“Not in a narcissistic or selfish way. But doing what pleases you, what makes you happy. What works for you.”

Westlake is one of the largest female secondary schools in the country and its principal Jane Stanley, who is a former New Zealand rowing representative, promotes a lot of the sporting initiatives at the school.

“We encourage everyone to just do something and be active, because it clears the brain, releases stress and if you learn it young, then you have it for life,” asserts April. “Exercising just becomes natural and automatic.”

April runs a programme called Just Play for her students so they can discover which sport brings them joy. “When they start at the school, we give them a tasting platter of sport that many students probably wouldn’t have tried before, like lacrosse” she says.

“We offer four-week coaching modules, which the senior students take, because they can understand what it is like to be new, and trying something weird and unusual.”

But it isn’t all about traditional sports for April.

Daughter Atlanta is on a rowing scholarship at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“We encourage everyone to get active, regardless of the activity, from backyard soccer to skateboarding and the ever-popular TikTok.

“My daughter Atlanta spent a lot of time dancing on TikTok when I really wanted her to concentrate on netball. But dancing on TikTok is very active and at least they’re moving.”

April also likes to emphasise that sport is not all about winning, despite a strong Kiwi culture many of us grew up in where winning is everything.

“Not everyone can be a Silver Fern or an All Black, so we need to change the competitive mindset to a more inclusive one,” she says. “By encouraging parents to turn up on the sideline and watch their kids having fun and being active should be plenty of reason to celebrate. The alternative these days is staying in a room on their devices all day.

“Fear of failure is one of the major issues that prevents people from having a go; it knocks their confidence. I say to our students, ‘If you don’t try it, you’ll never know. Just get off your butt and do something – anything.'”

Son Xanda is also busy rowing with his Westlake Boys’ High School team.

It would be easy to imagine the energetic and positive April marching around her school, cheerfully stirring her students into action every day, but she says she’s not like that at all.

“I’m probably a bit bossy and more likely to be telling them to hurry up!” she confesses. “The intention is good – we want to get the job done – but we don’t have a lot of time, so ‘hurry up’ is what I say most of the time!”

April’s two children both enjoy sports, like their mother. Atlanta is on a rowing scholarship at the University of Washington in Seattle, studying science. While her son Xanda is 17 and is also busy rowing with his Westlake Boys’ High School team.

April has always been a keen exerciser and says these days it’s more low-key with a daily walk.

I walk every single day and if that’s the most basic thing I do, then everything else in between is a bonus. I’ve gone from playing intense sports when I was young to just walking. Actually, it’s more like a stroll, but when you walk, you can get into your own personal zone, whatever that looks like,” she tells.

‘Dancing on TikTok is very active and at least they’re moving’

“Walking for me clears my mind, clears my body and sets me up for the day. It gives me the open space so that whatever has to come in, comes in, and whatever needs to go out, goes out.

“I’m lucky that I’m older and at this age you just don’t care what other people think, so I try to pass as much of that on to the girls.”

And she says her main inspiration for ageing is her mum Edith, who has lived with her since the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011.

In the past, April was the face of the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition to help raise funds after supporting Edith through breast cancer in 2001. Her father Kutoli died of pancreatic cancer in 2004.

“Mum came to live with me and the kids after the Christchurch earthquakes, and she stayed,” she shares. “So it’s a different kind of family unit, but it works. She helped me get the kids through high school and I am very grateful for her help with that.

“She’s 76 now and the picture of health. She’s just ageing beautifully and is such a great inspiration for me. If I get to look like her at 76, I’ll be so happy.”

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