Chris Crichton: Young People Consultant
Sport development, education and community development have been woven together throughout the career pathway of Sport NZ young people consultant Chris Crichton – never more so than in his role as project lead for Play.sport.
It was during two years in the UK at the age of 20 that Chris first realised a passion for education and people development. He was primarily there on a rugby contract from 2007, playing for Weston-super-Mare and Somerset County. But with extra time on his hands and looking for an additional challenge he seized a job opportunity as assistant director and coach at the Weston College Rugby Academy. The role expanded and he soon also went on to lecture in sports and exercise science at the College.
“I loved those roles. I’ve always found working with others really rewarding – I was a rugby coach when I first left school and the interpersonal aspect of that was what I enjoyed the most. I like developing people, and sport is a vehicle for doing that – it has played a huge role in shaping me both personally and professionally, and so I became really interested in how I can help others realise that potential too.”
The seeds for a career path that reflected that interest were therefore sown, and on his return home he completed a Bachelor in Sports Coaching at Canterbury University before joining Christchurch Council for a stint as a community recreation advisor. From there he joined the Belfast Community Network as a community sport development officer. A key part of that role was contracting to schools as a PE specialist and building the local sport system. That experience at the coalface has, he says, stood him in good stead as his career has progressed.
“As you become a step removed from that and move into positions where you are able to influence the bigger system and impact on participants, it helps to really understand what it’s like at the delivery end – the barriers, challenges and opportunities.”
18 months later Chris joined Sport Canterbury as community sport advisor and funding manager, and it was in this role that the strands of education, sport and community development were woven together most strongly as he worked in geographically targeted communities across schools, clubs and communities to build people capability and organisational capacity to increase young people’s participation in community sport.
He also supported schools with their planning around PE and sport, mentored teachers and built connections between schools, sports clubs and other providers to help students access quality participation opportunities both at school and in the community.
All of which provided a firm grounding for his current role ensuring Sport NZ delivers on the approaches outlined in its Young People Plan for getting more young people in New Zealand active.
“Our vision at Sport NZ is to enrich and inspire the lives of young people by creating a lifelong love of community sport and being physically active – and a key part of that is enabling those working with young people in the community sport sector to provide a consistent approach to how young people access and experience quality opportunities.
“That’s why we have Play.sport. It’s about ensuring young people have quality and engaging experiences – in PE, in sport, in play, in physical activity – so that they become motivated, confident and capable to be physically active for life.”
Having an understanding of the value and challenges of the Play.sport workforce roles of curriculum facilitator, PE mentor and activator is critical in working together to create those experiences, he says.
“My experience on the ground has provided that understanding of how best to support and work together with the workforce to achieve the outcomes we’re seeking through Play.sport. Together we’re making a difference in the lives of young people and their communities, and that’s incredibly rewarding.”