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How much is too much when it comes to youth sport?

How much is too much when it comes to youth sport?

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How to coach with a Balance is Better philosophy

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Balance is Better Principles Poster

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Creating a positive parent culture

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Unpacking the Balance is Better principles

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Running good trials and selections

How Sport Hawke’s Bay found a win-win with Good Sports® and Great Partnerships

Over the past 12 months, Sport Hawke’s Bay called on key sporting codes to work together to address a steady decline in participation by young people across the region.

Data from Sport NZ’s Active NZ and Voice of Participant surveys, together with the School Sport Census, highlighted a decline in young people participating in sport, especially those aged 15-17.  While there are many reasons contributing to this, Sport Hawke’s Bay felt it was important to work with parents and whānau to support better quality experiences for tamariki and rangatahi. So in 2021, Sports Hawke’s Bay committed to championing the Good Sports initiative.

Sport Hawke’s Bay took the following approach to embedding and championing Good Sports in all of their interactions with partners.

Community champions: understanding the challenges and opportunities

In October 2021, the Hawke’s Bay Sports Coalition (known locally as the “Big Six”) was formed under the leadership of Sport Hawke’s Bay. Aside from Sport Hawke’s Bay, this group includes:

  • Central Football
  • Basketball Hawke’s Bay
  • Hawke’s Bay Hockey
  • Hawke’s Bay Cricket
  • Hawke’s Bay Netball
  • Hawke’s Bay Rugby

This group’s purpose is centered around sport development and player wellbeing in the region. Those on the group have a wealth of knowledge about the local issues and challenges facing sport in the Hawke’s Bay and were a great place for Sport Hawke’s Bay to start when implementing the Good Sports mahi.

What did this look like?

Sport Hawke’s Bay created a ‘Community of Champions’ from this group, with representation from each code. Champions were either a General Manager or Operations Manager. Sport Hawke’s Bay then began working with these individuals, supporting them to them to understand how they could deliver Good Sports in a way that met their sport’s needs.

The Community of Champions meet quarterly to discuss relevant issues and share ideas not just around Good Sports, but also Balance is Better in general. As a consequence of this, Sport Hawke’s Bay saw how the codes began to align a number of their priorities in support of Balance is Better.

For example, Hawke’s Bay Cricket began implementing a number of positive changes in its 2021/22 season such as:

  • Ensuring all U13 participants can access non-selection based opportunities
  • Reducing pre-season skills coaching and representative team training to one training per week for Year 9-13
  • Scheduling trainings around winter sport commitments, to encourage participation in multiple sports
  • Putting a pod system rotation in place to allow players to try batting, bowling and different fielding positions

Hawkes Bay Cricket knew that they needed to support parents and coaches understand these changes and so delivered Good Sports and Balance is Better education sessions to all foundation coaches and to parents

With the success of this approach, Sport Hawke’s Bay is looking to mirror this structure to work with and upskill regional development officers in the region.

Positive change: building capability through Good Sports

Sport Hawke’s Bay was mindful not to create a lot of work for sports who were already very busy. Instead, they worked with the big six sports to consider the data in front of them and in February, they led a session with all codes to consider how Good Sports might fit into existing plans.

For example, Hawke’s Bay Rugby recognised the opportunity to further upskill their staff and incorporate Good Sports messaging into their Small Blacks programme, the compulsory course that junior rugby coaches attend each year. This approach was piloted with two clubs, and feedback from the coaches was “100% positive,” Finlayson said.

According to Hawke’s Bay Rugby Chief Executive Jay Campbell, “We want people playing for the right reasons. We are 100% behind this. It’s just now formalising what we have been thinking for a long time”.

Sport Hawke’s Bay’s approach to this mahi was less about change to competition structures, and more about raising adults’ awareness of the way their attitudes and behaviour impact the sporting experience of rangatahi – a core element of Good Sports

“The Good Sports initiative has been a great conversation starter, supporting adults to reflect on their own expectations, attitudes and behaviours.We don’t believe codes necessarily need to alter what they provide in the parent education space but can tailor Good Sports to fit with what they currently offer to their community without creating an extra workload for them,” says Finlayson.

Sport Hawke’s Bay, working alongside the Big Six Sports, delivered targeted workshops using the Good Sports approach. These workshops focused on raising awareness and understanding to parents, whanau and the community of how they could best support rangatahi and tamariki in sport. These Good Sports workshops were established in areas where there were already strong communication channels with adults in place. Feedback from these workshops has been positive.

“Good Sports supports me in my role as a sports coordinator and parent to understand the needs of rangatahi in sport and how I can be a vehicle to drive positive change for the future of sporting experiences for our young people.” Brooke Price, Sacred Heart

Change takes time – and challenges

Sport Hawke’s Bay remain committed to the long-term picture and impact to help stakeholders understand the part they can play in positive change.

In the wider community, there were concerns that the Good Sports approach could “make sport soft” and “take away competition and winning.” This prompted Sport Hawke’s Bay to reflect on their use of language. For example, rather than addressing parents on “Balance is Better” or “Good Sports,” they renamed their presentations: “Raising a Champion” and “Winning in the Long Run.” The content remained the same, however the language was focused on taking a long-term view, and how to support a lifelong love of sport at any level.

 “We accept that behaviour change is a slow process, and after connecting with Professor Camilla Knight from the university of Swansea, we learned that Good Sports isn’t trying to ‘fix’ adults but to raise awareness of the impact of our attitudes and behaviours on young people’s sporting experience. We accept that initial change doesn’t have to be big – it can be a small but significant change that sets an adult on a longer journey,” says Sport Hawke’s Bay Sport Development Manager Derryn Finlayson.

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