Next week Sport Hawke's Bay is holding forums encouraging Sport New Zealand's Balance is Better concept – a philosophy put in place to address dropping participation rates in the secondary school age group.
Guest speakers Alex Chiet, Sport NZ's national sport development consultant, and former Tall Black Dillon Boucher will address leaders from sporting bodies, secondary schools and clubs about the benefits of emphasising fun, delaying talent identification and specialisation in one sport, and shifting the focus from winning at all costs to development.
Sport Hawke's Bay general manager Ryan Hambleton said Balance is Better is a big thing for his organisation as well, since they want as many kids taking part in sport as possible.
"We're not bothered if they're playing rugby, football, hockey, ultimate frisbee, whatever it is as long as they're being active," Hambleton said.
Sport Hawke's Bay have just launched a new strategic plan for this year through 2024 with a similar focus.
"We've moved away from really looking at organised sport, just to ensure the health and wellbeing of Hawke's Bay is at the forefront," Hambleton said.
"We're now very much focused on play, active recreation and sport, so that's quite a big change."
The organisation just approved $141,000 in grants through the Tū Manawa Active Aotearoa fund for 14 new projects across the region with a focus to get more tamariki and rangatahi active.
Of that total $1100 went to Play projects, $81,079 to Active Recreation projects and $59,714 to Sport projects.
Hambleton said, as a country, we're not focusing on high performance at that secondary school level.
"The more kids that we've got active, that cream's going to rise to the top anyway," he said.
"We're not anti-high performance, we're just really pro more kids being active."
Hambleton added that all the nationwide data shows current active recreation and sport offerings are not meeting the needs of teenagers, leading to those low participation rates.
"The last thing we want is kids to be specialising, doing one sport to the point where they lose the love of being active," he said.
Hambleton noted that secondary schools are keen to see change as well ... that it's not just a message coming at them from above:
"They see the participation levels changing, so they understand that they've gotta be part of the movement."
He gave Napier Girls' High School's netball programme last year as an example, where underneath the top squad they let other teams select themselves so students could play with their friends rather than be placed through trials at every level.
"As a result they had more girls playing netball than they ever have," Hambleton said.