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Mike Dawson on improving youth sport

Video transcript

[Mike Dawson speaking]

Being a Balance is Better champion really excites me because it's so in tune with my beliefs as an athlete and something that I've really sought to achieve in my career is having balance, particularly because I felt like I specialized a little bit at some points in my career and it affected my performance. But as a young Kiwi growing up it was all about getting out there and playing as many sports as I can, and that's what this program is all about. So to be able to share that message and encourage and create change I'm really stoked to be a part of it. 

Being a Balance is Better a champion I really hope to achieve a lot of change within the New Zealand sport environment, so share the lessons and experiences I've had in my career with the leaders in sport, but also help mentor all the way down through all the levels and just encourage kids to have fun, leaders to create that environment, and make it an amazing place. 

Playing multiple sports as I developed into a canoe slalom athlete was key because it just taught me how to learn, and how to develop skills really quickly. But outside of that it gave me a lot of satisfaction - it was fun, I made a lot of other friends, I had these really cool social connections from all different sports and different environments, and that developed me into an elite level sportsman. So I wouldn't have it any other way. 

I chose to specialize in one sport when I was about 16, but in saying that I never really stopped playing the other sports, but my decisions about how much time I spent on canoe slalom was factored more around performance. 

I like the whole idea of not early specializing in sport being a key driver to performance later on in life, and that's something that's helped me keep in sport, and being reminded by mentors when I was 16 to make sure I keep those other opportunities open. 

It was really key to me going all the way to the end, but also it's meant that I've stayed in sport for life. Retired from competitive sport but still out there every day enjoying it. 

My message to young people is to have fun, make good mates, and just enjoy being out there on the sport field and staying active.

My message to parents is to encourage your kids to find out why they play sport, and then actively remind them about that, and encourage them to seek that. 

My message to coaches and administrators is to work as hard as you can to create the best possible environment for our youngsters to get after it and enjoy what they do out on the sports field. And stay true to the reasons why you play sport and we play sport.

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