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Les Elder on Youth Sport

Growing up back home I played everything so I played netball, I played touch, I played cricket, I played basketball and then as I got to high school, I started playing rugby. Obviously you're going to identify an
element of talent and I guess it depends on how you view talent.

So talent to me is not just your physical ability to play a sport but it's also the characteristics of that individual
that pull that whole picture together. So that's the stuff that you don't see at such a young age.

Young people haven't gone through life experiences where they've been challenged around how they think, how they view themselves, how they see themselves in the world and it's those things we kind of miss.

I work in sports right now and people often say to me 'oh you need to watch my kid do this they're 11 years old and they're going to be a future Black Fern or an All Black' and I just think to myself obviously they've got some talent but there's so much more to it to get to that higher level and that's just going to come at different stages
of that kid's life. 

So the problem is around youth participation in sport, there is a massive dropout which evolves around early
specialisation, the notion around winning, the belief that childhood success is going to lead to adult success. When I looked at my journey I was able to get skills from each of the different sports which I think I truly believe have helped me become the best rugby player. So I've taken my skills from netball, my skills from touch, my skills from every sport I've played and that's
helped for me as a rugby player.

What we know is that kids develop and grow at different stages, so it's important that when we're making
these kinds of decisions that we factor that in. If I can speak from my own personal experience I wasn't typically what you would see as a rugby player I mean I wasn't much bigger. I was pretty much this size you know. I wasn't very big as a kid so you wouldn't think that she would go on to become, that I would go on to become a rugby player and I think if people would have just sort of pushed me to the side at 14 years old and said 'oh she doesn't have the the frame to be a successful rugby player' then we would never have known
what could have been for me. So I'm lucky that people, that I had the support around me to just play and then eventually when I wanted to make the decision to pursue a sport then I had a good go at that

I think as decision makers in sport, we need to identify what those barriers are and do our best to remove them
and if that be by um introducing formats of the game that you know go against the traditional norm but
provide a service to everybody then that's how we should be thinking and operating. I think it's important that parents, coaches, administrators, people that make the decisions in sport, really put the the child and their
needs at the centre of their decision making.

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