Sport NZ Group Chief Executive Raelene Castle talks to the future of sport and recreation at Connections Conference 2022.
Predicting the future is tough, controlling it, borderline impossible.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work hard to shape it as favourably as we can.
That was the message Sport NZ Chief Executive Raelene Castle underscored with her opening address at Connections 2022, an annual conference for the leaders in a sport and recreation sector that, having emerged from many of the challenges of COVID-19, is now very much focussed on the future.
“In today’s world of accelerating change, we need to be well-positioned to respond and adapt to changes, and to think and act longer-term,” says Castle.
“Influences such as climate change, advances in technology, changes in society, are shaping the future of our sector. The COVID-19 global pandemic is the most recent, and wide-reaching, influence that we are having to deal with.
“Through Sport NZ’s futures work, we are gaining a better understanding about the drivers of change and the possible implications of change. We’re assessing our assumptions about the future and using the opportunity to explore what the future could look like for the sector.
“Ultimately, we want this work to help us think about a range of possible futures, especially what we call the ‘preferred future’ – and what we can do to prepare.”
With the pace of change rapid and no shortage of challenges on the horizon, the future could appear daunting, said Castle.
“But if you look backwards then we have already faced a whole lot of change and we are still here to tell the tale. So let’s not look at it as scary – but we do need to be thinking about it.
“Forty or 50 years ago women’s sporting options were netball and hockey. Men’s options were rugby, football, maybe hockey, and cricket. That was it. Forty years later there are hundreds of options for young people.”
The shape of sport and recreation in another 40 years’ time was very much unknown, however factors such as climate change, funding availability and changing priorities for participants would have a significant impact.
While some of the messages may have been confronting for sporting organisations pondering their futures, the opportunity existed to start adapting for the future - now.
“It’s not that sports are not going to have a role in the future, it is ‘how do they continue to be relevant when their customers, the young people, have got so many choices in front of them?
“What are they looking for? They are looking for variation in uniforms, they are looking for time flexibility, they are looking for less competition and more engagement with their mates. They don’t actually want a coach, they just want someone to organise them or allow them to turn up.”
Castle highlighted the successes of recent times, including the Tu Manawa funding model, which was successfully delivering funding to create sport and recreation opportunities for communities that face significant barriers to access; a Healthy Active Learning programme that had been rolled out to 800 schools; and the support of and public interest in the cricket and rugby Women’s World Cups successfully hosted by a country that also had the FIFA Women’s World Cup to look forward to in 2023.
Te Huinga Tākaro, an organisation formed to bring together the collective aspirations of the Māori National Sport Organisations (NSOs) and to increase their capacity and capability to support their membership, had also been successfully established.
The Te Tiriti-led partnership was formalised with the signing of a Mana Ōrite agreement at a ceremony in Wellington, in August.
Excellent work was being done in the sector to make sport and recreation more inclusive with a genuinely bi-cultural approach.
“The work that Sport New Zealand is doing and many of the other organisations in this room are embarking on, is only going to make us stronger as a nation” Castle said.
“We are all at different stages - and that’s okay. Because we are all on the journey and it will mean something slightly different to all of us. But we are going to have lots of opportunities to work together and we are going to end up in a better place because of it.”