What a week it has been around the country with the secondary schools winter tournament week in action.

Too much going on to get around it all, sadly, but a huge amount of great experiences generated for those youth involved in teams from all corners of New Zealand.

There have sure been some serious winter-type conditions to contend with, all adding to the character development.

Having so much action condensed into one week, it becomes a great development opportunity, and awesome fun to be a part of.


But like most good things, there can always be a downside. One that led to a bit of chatter this week involved the poaching-over-coaching debate.

Many are concerned by the increased focus on identifying talent in other schools and poaching, as opposed to developing and coaching a set of home-grown players.

Scholarships get bandied around, which can sadly detract from the team first most others work so hard to promote. It is a bit sad that the very word scholarships seems to have become part of the vernacular of even primary-aged kids.

It can be a tough decision for those who are being enticed – the grass is always greener, and it is always nice to feel wanted. For some it can be a real opportunity and a way out to a better future, but for the majority the benefits aren't all they might seem.

Being in the best team might not mean the best development. Being surrounded by better players might lift the collective standard, but for an individual's skill development it might make things too easy.

If he or she is to succeed, an athlete in a lower-level team will need to develop a greater range of skills to deal with the more constant pressure they are under.

A player in a top team might get an easier ride, and get away with becoming a one-trick pony, and therefore not be equipped for the step up to higher honours.

Being in a dominant team, means they miss out on the opportunity to develop real toughness and resilience, and struggle to cope with tough situations at the next level.

Even if attracting talent to a small pool of school might be good for the odd individual, it certainly doesn't seem good for the whole.

All the athletes and the system across the country will surely be better off if we have a more level playing field across the board, that keeps more kids engaged at that competitive level.

And in terms of team comradeship, you can't beat playing with the mates you have come through with over a period of years.

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Any team at tournament should always go out to win, but we can't allow that winning mentality to go so far that the prospect of the odd individual school winning a national title detracts from the development of all the kids around the country and the overall sporting system.

Although some individuals might not appear to be of the poaching-not-coaching type, it's not always as simple as it looks, and their approach might be more a result of the system they are in than their own personal belief – school leaders, and sports codes vary in their approach and the pressures that might be imparted on to the coaches.

The majority of coaches and managers are, of course, doing the right thing and have the bigger picture front of mind.

It all starts when they are young, promoting the team-first aspect, and that it's not even about you, its about the school or the club you are representing, and all the community involved.

Less focus on the individual will not only likely produce more quality players, it will take pressure off those individuals, and make them happier and healthier human beings.

One of New Zealand's strengths is that because we are a small country, we have great connections throughout our sporting communities, and have the potential to really look out for each other - each other's schools, regions and youth athletes.

• Marcus Agnew is the health and sport development manager at Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust and is also a lecturer in sports science at EIT.