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Sport NZ launches Balanced Female Health

29 May 2023

A new resource for adults supporting young people in community sport

Sport NZ has launched a new resource to support adults to understand the health and development of young people who are physically active through community sport.

Balanced Female Health was launched on 28 May to mark World Menstrual Hygiene Day, which raises awareness of global issues such as period poverty, a lack of education about menstruation, and persisting stigma about periods.

Designed for coaches, instructors, and parents by health professionals working in the sport sector, the resource provides information and practical tips on topics such as female puberty, the menstrual cycle, and factors that impact young people’s physical and mental wellbeing. It aligns closely to the Balance is Better philosophy which is about creating quality experiences for young people so they reap the benefits of sport and stay active for life.

Sport NZ Women and Girls Lead Maddi McLean says the resource is a step in the right direction towards increasing understanding of female health and raising awareness of how to support young people who menstruate.

"Understanding female health is critical to being able to respond to young people's needs and feeling confident to support them in ways that support their holistic wellbeing," says McLean.

Balanced Female Health seeks to address a gap in information and education about female-specific needs in sport and physical activity. Historically, research in sport science has been conducted predominately on male athletes and the findings have been retrofitted and applied to female athletes for years.

"It's about recognising that the needs of young women are unique and so our approaches to supporting them should be tailored to meet their needs. What works for young males is not always going to work for females," says McLean.

The resource aligns with the aims of Sport NZ’s strategic direction and is part a bigger push to increase education about female health and normalise conversations around menstruation and physical activity.

"It's so important that no one misses out on the benefits of physical activity just because they menstruate. We can all play a role in making sure that happens," says McLean.

Sport NZ’s recently released Women and Girls Action Plan has a focus on collaborating with relevant organisations to develop and share resources that showcase good practice for supporting women and girls. Following this, Sport NZ collaborated with NetballSmart, the official injury prevention programme of Netball New Zealand and authors of the SmartHealth Handbook, to develop a resource supporting female health and development across the broader community sport sector.

The sport-focused Balanced Female Health resource complements the “Going with the Flow”  resource released in April last year in collaboration with Education Outdoors New Zealand to support understanding about menstruation and rainbow inclusive practices in the outdoors.

Sport NZ is working on a range of additional resources to increase education of balanced female health and menstruation for both young people and adults, which are due to be released later this year.

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