Skip to Content

Wendi Henderson on Youth Sport

I believe in the balance has been a philosophy because I guess of my personal experiences as a player. Just
the different environments that I was involved in as a kid I played lots of different sport and I believe that those
experiences being exposed to different environments and different coaches and things, they've kind of molded me into the player that I became when I put it into football as my chosen sport.
So I was one of those kids that played a variety of sports from anything in the pool. I was a real water baby so I played a lot of water polo and swimming and softball cricket. I kind of gave everything ago and it wouldn't have been until I got to my sort-of mid-teens that softball and football were the two sports that I kind of stuck at. They were great loves for me and it wasn't until I was 20 that I actually chose football overall and stuck with that. 
Adult behaviours of trying to push kids when they're they're young, it's definitely having an impact on on kids staying in sport. What we've lost focus on is effect or the why kids play and it's because they want to have fun. They want to play with their friends. They do it to have the run around and to learn new skills so you know we've got to be across that as parents, coaches, administrators and sport and I think if we allow those kids to have that freedom and you know that journey then I believe we will keep them in sport for a lot longer.
Some of the adult behaviours that I've seen sort of pushed down and the pressures put on kids first hand is just
potentially overtraining. Lots of injuries as youngsters and I'm talking you know 12-13 year olds having some pretty serious injuries and I think the pressure there of them being in all sorts of different environments within the same sport just means they don't get a breather and they quickly fall out of love of the game. So instead of having a youngster that's got this you know huge potential ahead of them and potentially becoming an elite
athlete suddenly they've fallen out of love with the game and quitting.
I think some basic things that can happen is just people understanding that sort of eight, nine, ten, eleven year olds just want to have fun keeping the fun in the games it's important because otherwise we are  putting those pressures on those kids early. As I say everyone sort of grows and develops at different ages and stages and the more that we can have the bigger teams the more we can have kids involved in sport - it's good for the
outcomes of New Zealanders really as a whole in terms of the health and well-being.
I think there's this fear from parents there if their kid doesn't actually turn up to a lot of these activities that they won't become that elite player or kick on to have a professional career and what what we're missing here is those experiences actually help develop athletes. So you know it's putting more pressure on and you know we've got this philosophy where they need to train harder in order to to be a better player when in actual fact as I said we're getting that burnout.
I think everybody either has that burning desire that they want to become something and and know themselves what they need to do to get there and you know you'd often don't find that out until you're you know you're a bit older. So as a kid it's about just having as many experiences as you can and I think one of the things we need to do is actually educate parents that it's okay their their kids have a range of experiences. 
It's easy to get kind of caught up on the one or two kids that are that stand out when they're 9 or 10 years old and you know I believe that you know as coaches and parents we all have a role to play that everyone's got to have an opportunity. Kids do develop at different ages and stages and so what might be good for that child at 10 years old, suddenly you know when they're 14 everyone's catching up to them so it's really important that we we keep an open mind and that's got to start with education of coaches and parents at an early age and sport

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