Skip to Content

Changing the approach to youth sport

Changing the approach to youth sport

Cricket, Football, Hockey, Netball and Rugby representatives

A united front: (from left) David White, NZ Cricket; Jennie Wyllie, Netball NZ; Mike Bignell, Hockey NZ; Andrew Pragnell, NZ Football; Peter Miskimmin, Sport NZ; and Nigel Cass, NZ Rugby.


In September 2019 Sport NZ and five of the country’s largest participation sports took a stand to bring the fun and skills development focus back into the game for all young people.

These five sporting bodies were NZ Cricket, NZ Football, Hockey NZ, Netball NZ and Rugby NZ. They signed and published a Statement of Intent to pave the way to keep young people in sport.

The move follows significant change over recent years, such as the removal of intermediate age representative teams by provincial bodies in sports such as rugby and netball, and changes across most sports to make young people’s involvement more fun and engaging.

In April 2021 we announced 10 additional sporting bodies joining the collective and individual action. These new sports were Athletics NZ, Badminton NZ, Basketball NZ, Golf NZ, Gymnastics NZ, NZ Rugby League, Softball NZ, Touch NZ, Volleyball NZ and Waka Ama NZ.

These sporting bodies have committed at executive and board level to the Balance is Better philosophy and to make substantial change in the way youth experience sport in this country.

The commitments outlined in the Statement of Intent are:

  • Ensuring all young people receive a quality experience, irrespective of the level at which they compete.
  • Leading attitudinal and behavioural change among the sport leaders, coaches, administrators, parents and caregivers involved in youth sport.
  • Providing leadership to support of changes to competition structures and player development opportunities.
  • Working with within their sports and schools to keep minds open while identifying talent throughout the teen years, including reviewing the role and nature of national and regional representative tournaments to ensure that skill development opportunities are offered to more young people.
  • Supporting young people to play multiple sports.
  • Raising awareness of the risks of overtraining and overloading.

“There is real momentum behind these changes – a widespread recognition that we need to work hard and work differently to create quality and fun experiences that will keep kids in sport. This is great for participants, future talent and for our sector" - Raelene Castle.

Balance is Better

This action is informed by the Balance is Better philosophy, designed to bring about a change to the way youth sport is nurtured in New Zealand.

There is a dedicated Balance is Better website full of articles, case studies and videos with tips and advice from specialists in youth sport. Sign up to receive weekly updates and be part of the momentum.

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

Get Active
Find a sport or recreation activity
Browse Directory
Sport NZ
Who we are and what we do
Information on funding
Stay updated
Me whakahoutia

Sign up to our regular newsletters that connect Sport NZ to all those involved in the play, active recreation and sport sector.

burger close icon

Stay updated

Me whakahoutia

Keep up-to-date with news, events, and initiatives across the play, active recreation and sport sector.
No thanks