I am in an element of despair. Sport NZ, along with five of our biggest sports, have decided this morning to declare a new outlook and approach to kids' sport.

They will be moving away from specialisation, and moving away from winning or an emphasis on it. So mediocrity wins.

Their trouble is falling numbers. Kids are quitting their sports and they think that by making it a picnic, they'll reverse the trend.


Don't worry about winning: Rugby, major sports' shock move to keep kids playing

This would appear to be a reflection of a wider way of doing things, a societal view if you like. Much of what we hold dear - much of what has made this country great - is now up for some sort of renegotiation.

Turning up beats coming first. Participating beats a medal. Collaborative goodwill beats a place on the podium.

That's what NCEA is about: 87 per cent was a good score, you knew where you were at. Now, it's a merit. What's a merit? Did you pass? Who would know?

Dabble in whatever you like, give it a whirl, doesn't matter if nothing comes of it, as long as you have expressed yourself.

I'd argue from personal experience the reason that kids drop out of sport is several-fold. One of them is choice, the world of recreational activity has boomed. A couple of sports that are taking off are baseball and basketball, ask yourself why.

Is it because they don't like winning? Or is it because they watch it on television and see blokes who are household names earning $50 million a year? Join the dots.

Also, life for kids is hopelessly busy. Once you get to the pointy end of school, like my kids are, and you are serious about what's next, sport goes by the wayside.


Four of ours in recent years have been involved in top level sport. They all went to national championships, they all placed at national championships. I'm not sure how we handled the shame actually, all the success, when really what we should have been doing was hoping they were just meeting mates and coming ninth.

They, by the way, seemed quite stoked they'd done so well. I should have told them to tone it down.

But given those sports aren't their future, they dropped them.

Study beats recreation, and they are not alone. The demands on kids' time is phenomenal. Everyone wants a piece of you. And the closer you get to life's big decisions the more stuff has to give, and sport is one.

Now from an administration point of view, you'll be disappointed, but guess what? That's life.

They may take up something later on, they may play at university, or they may not. But as administrators angst over their numbers, the idea that it's because you took it too seriously as a kid is wrong.


Wanting to win is a lesson for life. Demanding more of yourself is a character trait. Sport plays a role in all of that, bailing on it is failure.

And failure leads nowhere good - especially if you don't even recognise it as such, and what was once defined as failure is now just standard policy.