Major sports call for grassroots action to change youth sport
Published on 26 Feb 2020
"We believe changing the attitudes and behaviours of those delivering or influencing grassroots sport, whether parents, coaches or administrators, will be the single biggest success factor in addressing the current problems in youth sport and keeping young people in the game," says Sport NZ's General Manager of Community Sport, Geoff Barry.
"Together with the five sports we are today launching a six-week campaign to raise awareness of how we need to change youth sport and what parents, coaches and administrators can do to contribute to this. To support them, Sport NZ has also launched the balanceisbetter.org.nz website, which provides information and resources for those delivering grassroots sport."
Those changes to youth sport, which include encouraging young people to play multiple sports rather than specialising early, and an emphasis on fun and development over winning, also continue to be driven by Sport NZ and the five sports.
An additional five sports will sign the Statement of Intent in March, after working closely with Sport NZ since September.
"We know that by standing and working together we are sending a strong message that there are aspects of youth sport which have to change, and it's exciting that five more sports have committed to driving their own changes and standing with us," says Hockey NZ CEO Ian Francis.
In addition, Sport NZ is making committing to the philosophy of the Statement of Intent a condition of its investment into national sport organisations from October this year.
"This is a powerful statement from Sport NZ about the importance of these changes. It will take time and a lot of consultation within each sport for big changes to flow through, but having all sports stating their commitment to change sends a strong message to those involved in the delivery of youth sport," says NZ Cricket Project Lead Martin Snedden.
Since September, each of the five sports has implemented changes that are already making a substantial positive impact on the way young people experience sport in New Zealand.
"For Netball New Zealand we now have 75% of our Netball Centres implementing our Year 7 and 8 Player Development Programme which has replaced the traditional Year 7 and 8 representative structure. We also announced changes to our national age group competition structure which will be implemented in mid - 2020. Since September we have also introduced a national youth board and we will have a youth representative on our Netball New Zealand Board by March this year," says Netball New Zealand CEO Jennie Wyllie.
NZ Football, meanwhile, has started to phase out its traditional Federation Talent Centre programme.
"NZ Football and our federations are working to improve the capability of clubs to provide quality development programmes for a larger group of players. Given that youth players develop at different rates, it is critically important that we have more players involved in development programmes," says NZ Football CEO Andrew Pragnell.
Rugby has recently made changes at both a provincial and national level. In November last year the Northern Region Rugby Council announced it would no longer undertake representative Provincial Union based initiatives below the Under 16 age group, while nationally New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has also introduced new programmes for junior rugby to reflect the changing needs of young people. These include the introduction of non-contact forms of rugby into older age groups including teenagers, and 10-a-side rugby for Under 11s.
"The changes we and other sports are implementing will have significant impact, but the outcomes we're seeking require a much bigger team effort from the wider sporting community. That's why we need to encourage those delivering sport at grassroots level to look at ways they can play their part too," says NZ Rugby CEO Mark Robinson.
The six-week public awareness campaign being delivered by Sport NZ and the five sports involves:
Two groups of advertisements - one highlighting how thinking around youth sport needs to change and another profiling sporting identities (e.g. Jeff Wilson, Temepara Bailey) who are living proof these changes work.
Additional publication of this content through the social and digital channels of Sport NZ and the five sports, with additional support from other sports and Regional Sports Trusts.
A series of media announcements and events.
A program of regional forums to engage regional sporting bodies, schools and clubs.
To find out more about the campaign visit keepupwiththeplay.org.nz.