I have never been a super sporty person so taking PE for me gave me a lot of anxiety at times and made me uncomfortable and unmotivated to take part in class.  

I was so aware that other students participated in competitive sports, so when playing school sports, I never wanted to make a mistake or do anything to embarrass myself. I would have loved to be encouraged to stay active and healthy in ways that work for me, rather than feeling like I am ‘unfit’ because I’m not a naturally competitive person or because I can’t run as fast or as far as my sport driven peers.  

School should be a place that teens can comfortably express themselves, so providing motivation during sports sessions is very important to supporting rangatahi (teenagers) to participate in healthy and active lifestyles.  

We need to change the stigma against sport and just encourage rangatahi to learn how to look after themselves. 

Being a member of the Youth Parliament Health Select Committee was such an amazing experience, where I was able to meet, collaborate and connect with so many young leaders from across Aotearoa, and submitters from different New Zealand sport and wellbeing organisations. Our aim was to ‘enquire into how young people can be supported to participate in healthy and active lifestyles’ and hearing a range of voices and perspectives helped us finalise the areas of health that we wanted to focus our discussions on.  

Physical activity was important in our discussion because staying active is a key factor in looking after your overall wellbeing and hauora. We found that rangatahi would love to have different approaches when it comes to physical education in secondary schools. We discussed that schools need to be supporting rangatahi to practice healthy living, whether it be providing skills and holistic ways to nurture their mental and physical wellbeing or having sport equipment and facilities available to use during study/free classes to encourage students to move regularly and stay active. 

A key point we made was that many schools may have good programmes and ways of teaching that work, but we want to ensure that every kura (school) has courses, services and the funding available to enable hauora support for students across all schools in Aotearoa; not being restricted by what decile the school is or whereabouts the school is located in their city or town. Many students have a passion for sport and sports education and what we would like to see is more opportunities and options for those young people who aren’t so passionate or keen on competitive and commercial sports, to have services and activities within schools that allow teens to move and stay active in ways that work for them. 

One thing we highlighted in our discussions is that we don’t want to remove physical education classes and courses that are currently being taught in schools at all, we just want to see more inclusive approaches added to the curriculum that allow students the freedom to find their own way of being active.  

When it comes to physical activity and engagement in the Waikato, I think young people would largely benefit from more community-based opportunities to get moving. It would help young people stay active, find like-minded people, and get to know our city better. Also playing indigenous sports games like Ki-o-Rahi or Kilikiti in schools would encourage rangatahi to learn and allow space for students and teachers to teach games from their culture, making school environments more inclusive and hopefully making students feel more valued and seen. 

I now look forward to sharing this knowledge with my school and wider communities, as well as using the skills I gained from Youth Parliament to create positive change in our current systems here in Kirikiriroa. 


Rosalie Norton is a 17 year old lifestyle blogger, big sister, public speaker, event facilitator, TEDx speaker, performer and founder of mindbox.nz. Rosalie is a member of many boards and committees, including Seed Waikato and Waikato Women's Fund, as well as being a design crew member of the Waikato Regional Council’s youth initiative 'Rangatahi Voices'.  She is currently finishing her final year at Hillcrest High School, whilst studying at the University of Waikato as a UniStart Student. 

Want to be a guest contributor on subjects around play, active recreation or sport? Get in touch - marketing@sportwaikato.org.nz

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