New Zealand's major sporting bodies have asked the country to work together, as preparations begin for a busy winter sports programme.
The COVID-19 affected 2020 season resulted in a significant drop in physical activity among young people.
After a 2020 winter season heavily disrupted by COVID-19, Sport NZ and five of the country's largest participation sports - cricket, football, hockey, netball and rugby - are calling on coaches, parents and others at the grassroots level to make the most of 2021 by creating a fun and extra rewarding season for all young people.
The collective stand comes as New Zealand approaches the anniversary of the first Level 4 lockdown, when organised sport came to a grinding halt, affecting the physical activity levels and wellbeing of young players around the country.
Sport NZ research conducting during Level 4 lockdown found that overall physical activity among young people fell significantly during April 2020, compared to a typical April.
The drop was most profound among those aged 12-14 years (down 44 percent from 12.91 to 7.26 hours per week) and 15-17 years (down 38 percent from 10.01 to 6.22 hours per week).
The message to make this winter season special by focusing on fun and development aligns with the Statement of Intent signed in September 2019.
They believe changing the focus of youth sport is even more relevant now, after recent alert level restrictions, and are calling on those at a grassroots level to lend a hand.
"We want it to be one we remember for all the right reasons," says Sport NZ chief executive Raelene Castle. "Everyone with a role in grassroots sport can help by making sure young players are having fun and that all kids are supported in their development, not just the best kids.
"We've done a lot of work with these and other sports to change youth sport at national and regional levels, but we'd love to see community coaches, managers, parents and others get behind this, and help us keep kids in the game.
"There are ideas and resources available, and we'd like everyone to make these part of how they plan for the upcoming winter season. Together, we can make 2021 something really special."
The Statement of Intent signed by these sports in 2019 included:
- Ensuring all young people receive a quality experience, irrespective of the level at which they compete.
- Leading attitudinal and behavioural change among the sports 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 their 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 several sports.
- Raising awareness of the risks of overtraining and overloading.