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It’s important to know how to create and manage change in a competitive sport environment so that it provides appropriate, relevant and meaningful development opportunities for all participants.
Here are some practical tips:
As leaders, bold and courageous change is needed to develop young participants to realise their potential in sport and in life – winning in the long run.
Sport NZ’s Balance is Better philosophy can help you understand what you can do to encourage young people to stay active in competitive sport for longer.
At the heart of this is putting the emphasis on the needs of the participant. Research around participant/athlete development here and overseas has identified three key issues.
Young people are all different and development doesn’t occur in a simple straightforward manner – or at the same speed. Competitive sporting opportunities need to reflect this rather than over-investing (both time and money) in just those who the show the most promise at a young age. All young people deserve quality sporting experiences and the opportunity to shine.
Too many young people are specialising in one sport in the belief that this is the best way for them to develop into elite adults. In truth, burnout, overuse injuries and declining motivation are more likely to be the outcomes of early specialisation. Administrators need to delay selection decisions, proactively managing young people at risk of overtraining and overloading and finding ways to keep them involved in a range of quality experiences in competitive sport – for longer.
It’s time to stop focusing on high performance and overemphasising ‘winning’ in youth sport. This approach is creating a lack of balance and leads to high workload and high pressure for young people too soon. A focus on development and getting better is what young people want and what successful athletes and people focus on.
Sport leaders play an important role in helping the sport system respond, especially around the support given to parents and coaches. Above all, remember why young people participate in sport – it’s about fun, the challenge, being part of a team or group, being with friends and self-improvement. Together everyone in the system can make sport inclusive, fair and safe for all young people.
If you’re a national or regional sporting organisation, talk to Sport NZ’s Sport Development team about embedding the Balance is Better philosophy into your approach for managing youth sport.
Or start exploring the Balance is Better website for practical resources, case studies and more.
Remember why young people participate in sport – it’s about fun, the challenge, being part of a team or group, being with friends and self-improvement.