Parents, coaches and administrators hold the key to addressing the current problems youth sport faces in New Zealand, Sport NZ says.

The emphasis of youth sport should be on having fun and player development, not winning, the organisation said.

And it was backed by five major sporting bodies, NZ Cricket, Netball NZ, Hockey NZ, NZ Football and NZ Rugby.

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In September, a Statement of Intent was signed by the six organisations in which they would change the way young people experienced sport.

It included encouraging young people to play multiple sports instead of specialising early, and putting an emphasis on development and enjoyment.

The impacts of changes were already being felt within the different sports.

However, the outcomes they were seeking required more help from the wider sporting community, NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson said.

"That's why we need to encourage those delivering sport at [the] grassroots level to look at ways they can play their part too."

The statement followed change over recent years to remove representative teams at certain ages in sports such as rugby and netball.

In February last year, the North Harbour Rugby Union axed their junior representative programme for kids.

The move was aimed at changing emphasis from performance to participation, a club official told the Herald at the time.


And this morning, Sport NZ called on parents, coaches and administrators at the grassroots level to follow the major sporting body's lead.

Those people would be the key behind the significant change, Sport NZ general manager of community sport Geoff Barry said.

Alongside the five sports, Sport NZ was launching a six-week public awareness campaign to help steer the direction of change.

It would tell parents, coaches and administrators how they could best contribute to the significant changes they were aiming for, Barry said.

"To support them, Sport NZ has also launched the website, which provides information and resources for those delivering grassroots sport."

An additional five sporting bodies would get behind the statement in March after working with Sport NZ since September.

And in October, Sport NZ was committing to the philosophy of the statement a condition of its investment into national sport organisations.

"This is a powerful statement from Sport NZ about the importance of these changes," NZ Cricket project lead and former Black Cap Martin Snedden said.

"It will take time and a lot of consultation within each sport for big changes to flow through, but having all sports stating their commitment to change sends a strong message to those involved in the delivery of youth sport."

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson. Photo / Photosport
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson. Photo / Photosport

Since opting to make the change in September, positive impacts were already being recognised by the sporting bodies.

Three-quarters of Netball NZ's centres were implementing a development programme for Years 7 and 8, replacing a representative structure.

"We also announced changes to our national age-group competition structure which will be implemented in mid-2020," chief executive Jennie Wyllie said.

"Since September we have also introduced a national youth board and we will have a youth representative on our Netball New Zealand Board by March this year."

Elsewhere, NZ Football had started phasing out its traditional Federation Talent Centre programme, chief executive Andrew Pragnell said.

"NZ Football and our federations are working to improve the capability of clubs to provide quality development programmes for a larger group of players," he said.

"Given that youth players develop at different rates, it is critically important that we have more players involved in development programmes."

Meanwhile, NZ Rugby introduced new programmes to junior rugby, including non-contact forms of rugby into older age groups, including teenagers.

The six commitments in the Statement of Intent:

• Ensuring all young people who play our sports receive a quality experience, irrespective of the level at which they compete;

• Leading attitudinal and behavioural change among the sport leaders, coaches, administrators, parents and caregivers involved in youth sport;

• Providing leadership to our sports to support changes to competitions and player development opportunities;

• Working with our sports and schools to keep minds open while identifying talent throughout the teen years, including reviewing the role and nature of national and regional representative tournaments to ensure that skills development opportunities are offered to more young people;

• Supporting young people to play multiple sports;

• And raising awareness of the risks of overtraining and overloading