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There are many forms of evidence to reinforce the need for change in youth sport. Below are links to different forms of evidence that have underpinned the development of the Balance is Better Philosophy to support our partners, leaders, administrators, coaches, teachers and parents.
Value of Sport
Declining youth and adults sport participation in Aotearoa
Research on and insights from young people
Reviews conducted into the New Zealand sport system
New Zealand research perspectives from the past 20 years
NZ international athletes

A study (Hodge et al., 2012) on NZ international athletes found most played a range of different sports as a teenager with some not taking up the sport they excel in until their teenage years.

Winning and competitions

Walters et al. (2011) outlined how adult behaviors affect children’s enjoyment of sport – with a focus on winning and competition – appearing to serve the needs of adults more than the needs of children.

Excessive training and competition loads

Some young people have become overrepresented in reports of acute and chronic injury due to excessive training and competition loads in sport.

i. McGowan, Whatman & Walters (2020), found that children participating in sport in excess of currently recommended sport participation volumes had increased odds of reporting a history of gradual onset injury.

ii. ACC statistics (2019) show a 60% surge since 2008 in sports-related injuries to children aged 10 to 14 – double the increase of any other age group.

Pressure to play when injured

There is growing evidence that coaches and young people are not managing sport injuries by with the young person’s long-term wellbeing at the forefront of decision-making.

i. Whatman, Walters, & Schluter (2018) study found 87% of New Zealand secondary school athletes surveyed, reported hiding an injury to continue playing. Approximately 50% of players and coaches has witnessed other players put under pressure to play when injured.

International research perspectives from the past 20 years
Youth sport attrition

Crane & Temple (2015) and Balish et al. (2014) conducted systematic evidence reviews and identified the following key factors were strongly evidenced as being correlated with youth sport attrition (drop-out)

i. Lack of enjoyment

ii. Perceptions of competence

iii. Social pressures

iv. Competing priorities

v. Physical factors (e.g., injury, maturation.)

Early speciation and early diversification/sampling

Several systemic reviews have been conducted on early speciation and early diversification/sampling (Carder et al., 2020; DiSanti & Erickson, 2019; Baily et al, 2010; Hecimovich, 2004) and found that early specialisation increased physiological (injury) and psycho-social burnout, drop-out) risk factors. Early diversification/sampling also supported long term talent and participant development outcomes

Participant, athlete and talent development

A summary of evidenced-based policy guidance on participant development, athlete development and talent development programmes (Till & Baker, 2020; Côté & Hancock, 2016; LaPrade et al., 2016; Côté et al, 2009; Vaeyens, 2008)), including the IOC’s consensus statement on youth athletic development (Bergeron et al., 2015), positions the following:

i. Talent is a complex and largely misunderstood phenomenon lacking robust research evidence, and given concerns that it is potentially unhealthy, talent identification and selection at younger ages is not recommended.

ii. Diversification and variability of athletic exposure between and within sports should be encouraged and promoted.

iii. Competition formats and settings should be age and skill appropriate, while allowing for sufficient rest and recovery time between multiple same-day contests.

iv. Quality coaches should support participant and athlete development by providing a challenging and enjoyable sporting climate that focuses on each athlete’s personal assets and mastery orientation.

v. Coaching practice should evidence-informed and be aligned with the context, age, stage and motivation of the young person.

Coach hi-fives a girl after a practice rugby conversion
Where is the evidence?
Download this research and evidence noted above at the link below.

If you require an accessible version of any content on the site please contact us and we will be happy to assist.

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