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Plan heralds new approach to keeping young people active

11 July 2016

Sport New Zealand has today released a “plan of attack” for keeping young people in New Zealand active.

The Young People Plan has been developed to provide leadership and direction for all those working with young people in community sport, to ensure Kiwi kids develop a lifelong love of being physically active, says Community Sport General Manager Geoff Barry.

“What the sport system provides for young people hasn’t changed a great deal over time. But the world young people live in has changed. Our sport system needs to take a fresh look at what we provide for young people to ensure we attract and retain them as participants in community sport.”

Kiwi kids have traditionally had high rates of participation in sport and active recreation, but in many countries around the world participation rates are falling, and New Zealand will not be immune, Barry says.

To develop the Young People Plan, Sport NZ has engaged with young people across New Zealand over the last 18 months through forums, activities and informal opportunities. Barry says this has provided strong insights in to what appeals to them.

“We’ve spoken with a range of young people, from the sporty to the non-sporty. We’ve asked them why they participate and why they don’t. It all comes down to whether they enjoy it and whether they’re having fun.”

However, fun does not take just one form for young people, Barry says.

“Fun is different for different people. There are young people for whom the only type of fun for them is competing at a really competitive level; for others, fun is having a laugh in a social context. For others fun is doing something on their own for themselves to feel better, physically and mentally.”

Barry says for our young people to develop a lifelong love of being physically active, the quality of opportunities, experiences and support on offer is critical and needs to be developed and improved.

“Lifestyles are changing, family life is changing and young people’s needs are changing. We need to get serious about understanding young people’s participation.”

Community sport is a way of meeting some of our fundamental human needs, and Sport NZ’s ‘physical literacy’ approach – which identifies these as physical, social/emotional, cognitive and spiritual - shows the way, Barry says.

“Our physical literacy approach helps us to see that social and emotional needs such as being with friends and making new friends are likely to be at least as important to young people as physical needs such as the opportunity to pursue competitive, intense sport. And cognitive needs such as choosing for themselves why and how they participate, along with spiritual needs such as the confidence to express their own beliefs, attitudes and values will also influence the kind of opportunity they are attracted to.”

The Young People Plan is being released at the Physical Education New Zealand (PENZ) conference being run in Palmerston North today through until Wednesday, attended by around 250 physical educators.

To find out more visit www.sportnz.org.nz/youngpeople.

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