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Sports bodies join together to change youth sport

Youth sport is set to undergo a dramatic shake-up as the leaders of Sport NZ and the country’s five largest participation sports speak out in a united front against negative experiences that are driving too many young New Zealanders away from sport.

“We’re taking a stand to bring the fun and development focus back to sport for all young people,” said Sport NZ CEO Peter Miskimmin.

“This includes pushing back against early specialisation, over-emphasis on winning and other factors that are driving young New Zealanders away from sport. Sporting organisations are aware of the problem and some are already making changes, but more is required and the six of us are stepping up to say we will lead the way.”

The group, including Netball, Rugby, Cricket, Football and Hockey, have signed a Statement of Intent that they believe will pave the way for substantial change in the way young people experience sport in this country.

Individually and collectively we commit to:

• Ensuring all young people who play our sports receive a quality experience, irrespective of the level at which they compete.

• Leading attitudinal and behavioural change among the sport leaders, coaches, administrators, parents and caregivers involved in youth sport.

• Providing leadership to our sports in support of changes to competition structures and player development opportunities.

• Working with our sports, clubs and schools to identify young talent later in their development, rather than sooner, including reviewing the role and nature of national and regional representative tournaments.

• Supporting young people to play multiple sports.

• Raising awareness of the risks of overtraining and overloading.

The six organisations have also announced that they will be launching an integrated marketing campaign early next year, targeted at youth sport influencers such as parents, caregivers, coaches and administrators, to further raise awareness of the issues and help drive positive change.

With close to 600,000 young people participating across the five sports each week, the group believe that the collective action will be a ‘game changer’ for young people.

Netball New Zealand CEO Jennie Wyllie said it was time to put the needs of young people first.

“Young people are not mini adults and it is important to meet their needs, taking into consideration their physical, cognitive, social abilities and well-being.”

Netball has already implemented changes and would continue to review its offerings.

“Netball New Zealand’s programmes provide more opportunities to a broader base of players to further develop their skills and inspire a life-long love of the game. We want to retain players in netball and provide them with the opportunity to continue to progress towards becoming the best that they can be.”