Physical Literacy Approach

Tamariki In yellow uniforms relax on the field after a match

What is Physical Literacy? 

A person’s Physical Literacy is a combination of their motivation, confidence and competence to be active, along with their knowledge and understanding of how being active contributes to their life.

Everyone has their own unique Physical Literacy that contributes to their overall wellbeing. It affects how, why and if they participate in physical activity throughout their life.

It is important to note that a person’s Physical Literacy:  

  • reflects their context, environment, culture and world
  • is a holistic concept, involving physical, social, emotional, cognitive and spiritual dimensions.

How does a person develop their Physical Literacy? 

A person’s Physical Literacy is the outcome of the many physical experiences they have, so is not static or linear.

It is an ongoing ‘learning journey’, constantly shaped by their experiences and interactions with others, the environment and their world.

While all life stages are important and contribute, the physical activity experiences in childhood and adolescence are of particular significance due to the long-term impact of these developmental stages.

Active play and the many benefits this provides is the foundation of Physical Literacy.

It continues to develop through the ongoing support, opportunities and experiences involving physical activity, including play, active recreation and sport and physical education within our schools and kura.

To have the best effect possible on a person’s Physical Literacy development, these experiences need to be high quality and represent value to the individual – the more positive the impact, the greater the likelihood of a lifelong commitment to being active.  

Quality experiences:  

  • are rewarding, challenging, exciting and self-confirming
  • focus on building more than skills, and emphasise motivation, confidence and the wider value of physical activity
  • focus on the participant taking ownership and responsibility for being active (as appropriate to their life stage)
  • impact positively on all elements of a person’s wellbeing.

Principles of a Sport NZ Physical Literacy Approach

To positively influence a person’s Physical Literacy across their life, we think it is important to focus on understanding ‘the person’ or people at the centre of the experience, and considering and understanding their needs and choices in physical activity participation.

It also means means considering the person in ways that make sense to them, for example within the context of their family, whānau, and environment.

By using this approach, our work:

  • emphasises a lifelong journey with physical activity, promoting the contribution being active has to overall wellbeing
  • is focused on supporting people valuing and choosing physical activity (in a way that meets their needs) throughout their lives
  • is about fostering ongoing motivation, confidence, competence to be active, along with developing the knowledge and understanding of what value being active can have
  • requires us to consider the quality of the support, opportunities, and experiences we design, facilitate and deliver. These need to recognise and respond in a holistic way, involving the physical, social, emotional, cognitive and spiritual dimensions of people.

The way in which the approach is expressed, the terminology used, and how it is brought to life should be relevant and meaningful to the organisation and the people they work with.

Working together with our sector will, we believe, help create ongoing positive Physical Literacy journeys for New Zealanders.

The key purpose of a focus on Physical Literacy is to nurture a commitment to physical activity for life.

Physical Literacy Approach Maturity Model

Organisations can work out how well they are embedding the Physical Literacy Approach by working through this interactive planning tool.

The Physical Literacy Approach is one of the Three Approaches promoted by Sport NZ, with:

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