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Young people who enjoy sport develop a lifelong love of the game, turning them into active and healthy adults.
At the heart of this is putting the emphasis on the needs of the young person. Research has helped identify what is happening in New Zealand and overseas and 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 athletes are specialising in one sport in the belief 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. We need to delay selection decisions, proactively manage young people at risk of overtraining and overloading and find ways to keep more young people 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.
New Zealand is a sporting nation; it’s in our DNA. But our world is changing and factors such as societal changes, the role of technology and contention on our time are causing a drop in sport participation in young people.
Start exploring the Balance is Better website for practical resources, case studies and more. It’s the easiest way to keep up with the play.
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.