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Out to make it fun


TAIRAWHITI sporting organisations are pledging to support a push to make youth sport more about fun and less about competitiveness.

Five major sporting codes in New Zealand — cricket, rugby, netball, football and hockey — signed a statement of intent this week to make youth sport more inclusive and not just about winners.

Sports administrators are wary of children specialising in sports too early and adult expectations contributing to teens dropping out of sport.

Sport Gisborne Tairawhiti chief executive Stefan Pishief said he supported taking a stand to bring the fun back to youth sport.

' . . . it can be a game-changer for sport in our community'“I think it can be a game-changer for sport in our community,” he said.

“We all have a role to play as parents, caregivers and coaches to encourage our young people to experience a variety of sport, rather than concentrating on one too early on.

“This isn’t about reducing opportunities, as talented children will still be able to thrive, but rather this is a movement based on long-term research, best practice and evidence.”

Sport New Zealand has been behind a change of emphasis and Poverty Bay Cricket Association operations manager Nic Hendrie said he backed the approach.

Sporting organisations in the region have already made adjustments.

Gisborne Netball Centre stopped its Year 7 and 8 representative teams last year.

Board chairwoman Kate Faulks said: “We as adults need to be constantly reminded that the No.1 reason girls and boys play netball in New Zealand is for fun — this includes the top, highly skilled players, too.”

The Poverty Bay Rugby Football Union has changed its development programmes in the past couple of years. Among measures taken have been a shortening of the junior club season and removal of the under-13 representative team.

The McDonald’s u13 tournament became a player and coaching development series this year.

Union chief executive Josh Willoughby said changes had gone down well.

“We’ve seen an increase in player numbers this year and feedback from our annual survey suggests an improved experience and environment.”

Willoughby said it was important to provide children with “the best possible experience”.

'Finding the balance between having fun and winning can be difficult'“Finding the balance between having fun and winning can be difficult, but by putting the needs of young people first we can make sure they will have fun and develop their skills.”

Pishief said having more young people taking part in sports meant a healthier Tairawhiti and more young people reaching their potential as adults.

New Zealand Cricket, NZ Football, Hockey NZ, Netball NZ and New Zealand Rugby agreed to:

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

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

• Provide leadership in support of changes to competition structures and player development opportunities.

• Work with sports and schools to keep minds open while identifying talent throughout the teen years, including reviewing the role and nature of national and regional representative tournaments to ensure that skill development opportunities are offered to more young people.

• Support young people to play multiple sports.

• Raise awareness of the risks of over-training and over-loading.

PLAYING FOR FUN: Poverty Bay under-13 girls play against Bay of Plenty u13s in a game in July. The role of representative programmes is under the microscope as sporting organisations look to strike the right balance between sport being for fun and being about winning. Picture by Liam Clayton