All New Zealanders have the right to play sport in fair and inclusive environments. So how can we design youth sport programmes in which fairness and inclusivity are embedded — and then deliver those programmes in a way that gives every participant equal opportunities to enjoy their experience and thrive? Below, we discuss the steps that schools and clubs can take to safeguard the fairness of their programmes — and thereby ensure that every child can access quality sporting experiences.
Take a Fair Approach to Resourcing Programmes
To promote a culture of fairness within your organisation, you must be conscious of how you allocate resources to all teams and groups within it. We often think of resources as finances and equipment, but the resources we use to deliver sports programmes also include things like time, facilities, coaching expertise, and visual representation.
It’s important that you critically reflect on how you divide resources across programmes for different participant segments (for instance, women and girls versus men and boys; competitive versus social; senior versus youth). Often, when sport organisations undertake this reflection, they see that they have privileged certain groups over others (and, conversely, marginalised others). Given the limited resources in grassroots sports organisations, it may be challenging to provide equal resourcing to all segments. Nonetheless, the premise of the question “is this fair?” is a useful reference for making decisions around resource allocation.
Below, we’ve offered some areas to consider regarding the allocation of different types of resources to different groups across your sport programme:
What group(s) benefit the most from how financial resources are allocated across your programme? Are there any large disparities in budget allocation between the different genders, ages, or motivations of participants?
Be mindful of the facilities and how they are scheduled. Do certain groups enjoy greater use of the best pitches or gymnasiums — or always receive access to those facilities during preferential timeslots? Do you offer adequate (private) changing rooms for women and girls, and provide accessible facilities for participants with disabilities?
Equipment and Uniforms
Quality equipment and uniforms should be provided to all participants. Can every team use the best equipment? Are any teams made to feel marginalised or disadvantaged by the state of the equipment they receive? Do girls’ and women’s teams have access to appropriate uniforms?
Access to Quality Coaching
Are participants given opportunities to work with a range of different coaches? Check that the most experienced coaches aren’t concentrated in certain areas of your programme (for instance, within the teams competing in higher-performance settings).
Accessibility to All
Are quality sporting experiences offered to people who face the greatest barriers to participation? This means creating teams for individuals with disabilities, adapting facilities where necessary, and potentially recruiting coaches with specialist expertise.
Every participant should feel they matter. It’s crucial to convey this through the images, stories, and messages that are promoted in newsletters, online, and around facilities. Do girls’ teams receive as much exposure as boys’ teams? Are participants with disabilities visibly supported, promoted, and celebrated? Every aspect of your organisation should be proudly represented.
Te Tiriti o Waitangi
Has your organisation developed a positive relationship with mana whenua? Does it understand its obligations to Te Tiriti o Waitangi?
Equitable Allocation of Resources
It’s important to take an equitable approach to allocating resources. Sometimes, this may look like providing resources (such as budget, or access to facilities and/or coaching) to certain segments that are above and beyond what others might receive, in order to address or redress the effects of historical gaps and marginalisation.
Uphold Fair Programmes, Competitions, and Organisational Cultures
In addition to careful programme design, we must be proactive in maintaining fairness through the day-to-day running of our youth sport organisations. Procedures for things like team selections, upholding organisational values, and addressing complaints or disputes are essential to ensuring that every participant, parent, and coach is treated fairly.
Effective measures you can take within your organisations include:
Develop a simple, objective process for team selections, and be transparent in communicating this policy with participants and parents before the initial selection processes.
Philosophy and Values
Develop an organisational philosophy, comprising an expected set of values and behaviours, and ensure that all participants, parents, coaches, and programme administrators understand it. This could be reinforced by organising inductions at the start of each season, or for all new enrollees.
Run competitions transparently, allowing oversight from third-parties where possible, to guard against manipulation.
Complaints and Mediation
Signpost independent complaints and mediation services — giving participants and parents a safe place to discuss disputes or concerns, should they arise.
Image Source: matimix from Canva