Over the years there have been many initiatives introduced to youth sport with the intention of decreasing the negative side of pressure, expectations and early specialisation, through well thought out ads, posters, signs and slogans.
So what makes Good Sports different to other “give it a rest” or “be a good sort” initiatives that are currently available?
The discussions and the format of the workshops that challenge you to look at youth sport from the eyes of the youth. Good Sports is a cultural change initiative aiming to create positive sporting experiences for children by educating and supporting the key adult influencers in youth sport: parents, coaches, teachers and sport administrators.
New Zealand and international research indicate that there has been a gradual decline in the number of children participating in organised sport opportunities over the past decade. While this has been recognised to be underpinned by a complex interaction of changing societal patterns, ultimately many of today’s sport experiences are no longer meeting children’s needs as effectively as they could.
Importantly, adults in their various roles (parents, coaches, teachers and sport administrators) are critical for enabling sport experiences which meet the needs of a child. Unfortunately, research indicates that (even despite the best of intent at times) adults can inhibit children from having great sport experiences.
Some challenges our youth face in sport illustrate how pivotal adults are to children having good or bad experiences. For example:
- An uncomfortable pattern of kids standing and watching at practice as adults control activities and take the play out of the game
- The poaching of players and construction of ‘super teams’
- Evidence of Relative Age Effect where there is a tendency in early age groups to make selection decisions that favour children born earlier in the year
- Adults berating officials and kids from the sidelines; some instances leading to violence
- Families starting year-round training earlier in hopes of reaching elite status
- Clubs and organisations holding traditional but outdated models of competition that no longer serve the needs of young people
We know that this isn’t the case for everyone. There are many examples of adults who focus on creating quality experiences. Unfortunately, problems such as those mentioned above prevail enough for a collective call to address the issues outlined as well as others.
Too many of our adults around youth sport seem to miss the big picture. They mistake the value of healthy competition for the need to win-at-all costs. Short-term performances become a way of unfairly labelling both current and future ability. The culture of professional, adult sport all-too-easily creeps onto the pitch of unassuming eight, 12 and 16 year old children who trust the experiences and passion of a talented former player or well-meaning volunteer parent.
Good Sports was established out of recognition that supporting and educating adults is crucial to ensuring Kiwi kids have the best chance of having positive sporting experiences and ultimately growing a lifelong love of sport.
Cultural change isn’t easy. These issues are complex, messy and fluid. To successfully initiate a change of thought, language, attitude and behaviour towards youth sport in our region, Sport Waikato is bringing Good Sports to the Putaruru Schools Cluster, Leamington School, St Columbus School, Morrrinsville Schools Cluster along with working to integrate the Good Sports Philosophy into Netball Waikato Bay of Plenty and Waikato Rugby Union’s Junior Frameworks.
To introduce the Good Sports Philosophy into these communities, we will be hosting a number of workshops where key issues our youth are facing will be discussed in a safe, non-judgmental environment, as we all want our kids to be involved with sport, and as adults we are always there supporting with the best of intentions - it is just that sometimes our attitudes, behaviours and actions are not the most appropriate for our youth.
By implementing the Good Sports Philosophy and utilising the Good Sports Spine we hope to move towards the Climate of Development, ensuring that the attitudes and behaviours they role model also have the best sporting needs of the child at heart.