Sport Bay of Plenty

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Maintaining purpose for young sportspeople in uncertain times

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Dave Clarke, our Community Sport Development and Coaching Team Leader, discusses how adaptability and embracing change has helped ensure our sporting youth can still have a great season in 2020.

We are all living in some uncertain times given the effects of the COVID lockdowns and restrictions at various levels. As a result, the sporting landscape has seen all sports having to adapt the way they deliver events, competitions and training and, in some cases, cancel or postpone.

What's been impressive to see is how Regional Sports Organisations, clubs, school staff and volunteers have gone the extra mile to prepare and plan for all of the 'maybe' and 'might be' scenarios as they are presented.

Teenage girls cheer from sideline at basketball game

The effect of all this uncertainty on young people may not be understood at this point, but one thing that has stood out for certain was that young people returned to sport in their droves as soon as the opportunity arose after the last lockdown. I believe this shows the important role sport can play in these times by maintaining some stability in young people's lives.

The way sport is delivered may have adapted and changed throughout COVID alert levels, but these adaptations mean young people still get a chance to play with their mates, have fun, learn new skills, compete with one another and stay active and healthy. Sport helps bring back some normalcy and purpose to their daily lives which is critical when they're surrounded by uncertainty.

Adapting how we deliver these great experiences requires a real team effort. For instance for coaches the return to sport may have been a tricky path to tread as they tried to manage the needs and expectations around them. As much as possible at this time, though, sport needs to be about fun and playing again rather than performance.

We have to re-ignite a young person’s love for the game in those first few weeks back, and their motivation to participate is as much about connection as it is about sport. That's why at this time it is even more important for coaches to connect with young people and help them reflect at the end of their sessions - whilst staying socially distant! Some great questions to ask might be:

  • What was great about getting back to sport?
  • What’s one thing you did well today?
  • Or tell me about a time you helped out a teammate.

One other thing for all of us to be conscious of is the potential for some sports to have overlapping seasons. It's important to closely monitor the volume or load of young participants by checking in with them regularly around their other activities. This is in line with the current Sport NZ Balance is Better philosophy on youth sport which you can find more about at

These are uncertain times, but amongst all that uncertainty it's well worth taking a moment to reflect and acknowledge the unsung heroes - the administrators, volunteers, coaches, managers and umpires who have set aside their own problems to adapt and change and just make sport happen.

Parents should also get a pat on the back for getting their kids out there again, for not being over protective and for showing understanding around the changes that sports codes have had to make. As Doctor McCoy from Star Trek once said, “There’s sport, Jim, but not as we know it” or something close to that! The landscape has changed for the indefinite future, so let's embrace it while we can and continue to provide purpose and stability for our young people.

About the author

Dave Clarke is the Community Sport Development and Coaching Team Leader at Sport Bay of Plenty.

Dave and his team offer workshop development opportunities for coaches, managers, athletes and parents. Contact Dave to find out more and see if we can assist you and your sport to better help young people find their sporting purpose.

Dave Clarke_Snippet

Dave Clarke

Community Sport Development and Coaching Team Leader

027 299 5110

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