News & Updates

21 April 2021 • General

Athletics joins collective stand on youth sport

Athletics New Zealand is part of a collective of national sporting organisations that is publicly backing the Balance is Better Statement of Intent, alongside Badminton NZ, Basketball NZ, NZ Cricket, NZ Football, Golf NZ, Gymnastics NZ, Hockey NZ, Netball NZ, NZ Rugby, NZ Rugby League, Softball NZ, Touch NZ, Volleyball NZ and Waka Ama NZ.

The collective commitment has a focus on keeping young people in sport by putting a stronger focus on fun and development, reviewing existing competition structures and encouraging youth to play multiple sports rather than specialising too early.

“We need to change what is offered and how we engage with young people. There needs to be quality opportunities for all participants, not just the best players,” Sport NZ Chief Executive Raelene Castle says.

“Sport is a huge part of our society and important for the wellbeing of so many New Zealanders, however the way sport is delivered has not kept up with what young people are looking for. We know that because they’re telling us and many are also walking away.”

The commitments outlined in the Statement of Intent are:

  • Ensuring all young people receive a quality experience, irrespective of the level at which they compete.
  • Leading attitudinal and behavioural change among the sport leaders, coaches, administrators, parents and caregivers involved in youth sport.
  • Providing leadership to support of changes to competition structures and player development opportunities.
  • Working within 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.
  • Supporting young people to play multiple sports.
  • Raising awareness of the risks of overtraining and overloading.

To join the collective stand, Athletics NZ has committed at executive and board level, and has agreed to put resources behind making changes to how youth athletics is delivered. In alignment with this commitment, Athletics NZ yesterday began advertising for the newly-created role of Young People’s Lead, which will lead, influence and work alongside key partners to strengthen and increase opportunities for young people participating in athletics.

“The majority of our membership is made up of tamariki and rangatahi,” Athletics NZ CEO Peter Pfitzinger says.

“One of our organisational priorities is to retain more of these young athletes. Committing to the Balance is Better principles and recruiting a specific Young People’s Lead are two important steps that will take us towards that goal,” he adds.

“Athletics is a sport that has so much to offer young athletes and we are excited to work with our clubs and centres to create quality and fun experiences that will keep kids in our sport. If we can achieve that, it will be great for everyone involved, from the grassroots through to high performance.”   

Athletics NZ Community Manager Hamish Meacheam says formally committing to the Balance is Better ethos is an important milestone for the sport.

“Athletics has a strong tradition of encouraging late specialisation and developing great, all-round athletes,” he says.

“So our commitment to the Balance is Better statement is a natural extension of this and will help to embed the Balance is Better commitments across our sport.”

While athletics has some identified strengths, there are also some areas for development.

“We have a strong long-term athlete development focus within our coaching community so, for us, Balance is Better presents opportunities to re-think competition structures, strengthen parent education and widen athlete development opportunities,” Meacheam says.

“We also need to ensure we are not only delivering great experiences at national events but also supporting our clubs and centres to provide a quality experience, irrespective of the level of competition.”