10 March 2020
New research shows most NZ pre-HP athletes play multiple sports “Specialising later is not going to reduce New Zealand’s chances of winning on the world stage”
High Performance Sport NZ (HSPNZ) has endorsed the 'Keep Up With The Play' public awareness campaign being run by five major sports in partnership with Sport NZ.
The campaign raises awareness of the negative adult behaviours that result in young people dropping out of sport. Those influences include too strong an emphasis on winning at youth level (over fun and development), early specialisation and a belief that youth success leads to adult success.
HPSNZ High Performance Athlete Development Manager Ken Lynch says good practice at youth development level can enable both life-long participation in sport and future high-performance outcomes.
"Many people believe that they can predict future potential at the age of 11, 12 or 13. There are so many variables at play that deciphering them to understand pure potential rather than current performance at that age is extremely difficult.
"HPSNZ encourages diversity in development, whether that's playing multiple sports, multiple disciplines or activities within a single sport. When managed well this can also reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries.
"There are a few sports that require specialisation earlier, like some snow sports disciplines or swimming, but ensuring there is diversity within those programmes can meet development needs and reduce the possibility of overuse injuries or burnout," says Ken Lynch.
HPSNZ's High-Performance Athlete Development team works with targeted NSOs to create effective development environments for athletes tracking towards international success in future Olympic or Paralympic cycles, or other pinnacle events. This team is currently working with 400 athletes across 12 sports, primarily focused on Paris 2024, Beijing 2026 and LA 2028.
As part of this work, HPSNZ has for the past seven years been surveying pre-HP athletes (those on the cusp of becoming a high-performance athlete). So far this study has involved 645 athletes across six intakes and 22 sports. The survey measures athlete demographics, family background, characteristics, experiences and a mix of sport science and medicine measures. It has identified findings that support the 'Keep Up With The Play' campaign.
On average, pre-HP athletes report their point of specialisation at 15 years and 5 months old. They are playing 5.5 sports in primary school and 3.1 sports at secondary school. Even after secondary school they are average 1.9 sports.
The HPSNZ research also reinforces the importance of parents and coaches, who are the primary targets of the public awareness campaign. Pre-HP athletes report that the top three sources of their learning to perform better are through their coaches, technical support staff and parents, while encouragement and influence from parents is third on the list of motivation factors, behind the love of their sport and liking being active.
"These findings support the changes being driven at youth level by the five sports and Sport NZ. Specialising later is not going to reduce New Zealand's chances of winning on the world stage, and the right support from parents and coaches is definitely a key ingredient, whether you're in grassroots sport or on a pathway to being an elite athlete, " says Ken Lynch.
"Quality coaching and administration at youth level should enable athletes to stay in sport and realise their potential, whether that's about playing for enjoyment or aspiring to be a future high performance athlete."
Philip Clark Media Manager - HPSNZ
M: 0278 385 710