Former Tall Black Dillon Boucher is advising all sports to consider ditching their junior representative programmes after lessons learned during his son's shock exit from basketball.
The former New Zealand Breakers star said highly organised sport for children was often about over-involved parents living vicariously through their children.
It risked robbing children of the fun that came with sport, he warned.
"We need to understand it's the kid's journey, not the parents' journey. Each kid is going to have a different journey, so let them pave their way."
Boucher, who was also Breakers' general manager, spoke about falling sport participation nationwide to Northland sporting organisations during a two-day summit at Whangārei's Cobham Oval organised by Sport New Zealand and the Northland Sports Coalition.
In a speech on Wednesday, Boucher spoke of his 19-year-old son who came to him in tears six months ago about not wanting to pursue basketball.
Boucher said his son, who had won national titles and attained scholarships to play in the United States, had confessed he only enjoyed playing with his friends and had no desire to play professionally.
Boucher revealed his son had said he only continued to play because he thought his father wanted him to.
"It was almost a relief when he had that conversation. It was more a relief that he had made his mind up instead of trying to fulfil a dream that wasn't his," he said.
Boucher also talked about his daughter, a talented sportswoman, who had been forced to chose between netball and basketball.
He said those experiences had shown him why axing representative programmes at a young age was important, supporting the move North Harbour Rugby made to cut its junior rep teams last year.
"I think talent identification at a young age, it's not pointless, but you're going to be missing some great talent," he said.
"As parents, we want our kids to make an under-13 team and feel like they are on that journey and that makes you proud, but I think if that was never there, you don't have that to compare it to."
Boucher's Northland appearance was as an ambassador of Sport New Zealand's "Balance is Better" programme, which aimed to increase sport participation levels across all age groups, but particularly at a secondary school level.
School Sport New Zealand data showed the percentage of secondary school students involved in sport in 2019 was 51 per cent, five per cent less than in 2000.
In Northland, an average of 45 per cent of secondary school students were involved in sport between 2000-2019, 8 per cent less than the national average.
This week's hui was among the first in the country to feature 11 codes: basketball, cricket, rugby, rugby league, netball, Parafed, bowls, touch, football, hockey and volleyball.
Rugby League Northland regional development officer Cori Paul said a big issue affecting his code was players being torn between rugby and rugby league, which decreased the pool of players for both codes.
He believed this week's hui was an important factor in using the limited resources in the north.
"I think is a pretty good step to be on the same page, rather than rugby and rugby league on one page and hockey on another page."
Northland football development officer Dave Alabaster said the consistent issues of sideline behaviour from parents had been addressed by removing junior representative programmes.
He said codes should co-operate further by sharing calendars to enable players to participate in multiple sports.
Northland Rugby Union's Peter Hugo said sporting calendars were too restrictive for young players, particularly in rugby, which he said had turned into a 12-month game.
"The 12 months is basically destroying a kid who wants to play cricket."
Northland Basketball chairman Dave Davis-Colley said the past three years had been great for the sport, with player numbers doubling as local competitions in Kaitaia, Kaikohe, Dargaville and Ruawai had been introduced.
Despite basketball arguably being Northland's most popular sport, Davis-Colley said it was important to work with other codes to improve participation.
"The writing is on the wall, these principles are going to be part of our future so you can either be in there to begin with and ride with this, or this is going to be forced upon you later on."