What young people can tell us about sport and recreation
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
Written by Heidi Lichtwark, Chief Executive Officer, Sport Bay of Plenty
Youth Week starts on Saturday and this year the theme is: “Our voices matter, and we deserve to be heard!” Our chief executive Heidi Lichtwark looks at the importance of hearing directly from young people about what they want in sport and recreation.
Assumptions are easy. They’re like a low resistance pathway to reinforce our preferences or, worse yet, harden the harmful stereotypes that mute individual voices. Take teenagers for instance. When they sleep in, show a lack of interest in a sport or roll their eyes as you beg them to get moving then it’s easy to dismiss their behaviour as that of a ‘typical teenager’.
Labelling something as ‘typical’ is often shorthand for things that neatly fit our assumptions and stereotypes. It also risks normalising certain issues. A good example is the well-documented physical activity drop-off in rangatahi from the age of 15. Taken in isolation it’s easy to assume this trend is the result of teenagers losing interest in being active as they get older. As a result, this worrying teenage tumble in participation gets treated as an inevitable part of growing up, and therefore conveniently blends into the background and no longer demands our attention. But coupled with insights into attitudes a very different picture begins to emerge: 73 per cent of rangatahi want to take part in physical activities.
Rangatahi in Waiariki-Bay of Plenty want to be active, but that’s not reflected in the actual participation we are seeing throughout the region.
That’s the value of hearing directly from the voice of participants. You capture the nuances and cracks start to form in the assumptions and stereotypes that are holding us all back from meaningful change.
In 2021, Sport Bay of Plenty supported the roll-out of Sport New Zealand’s Voice of Rangatahi survey in our rohe. Over two terms students aged 10 to 18 from eleven schools in Eastern, Central and Western Bay of Plenty were asked what physical activities they currently do and for how long, what they want to do and what their experiences were like.
The survey was an in-depth look into rangatahi participation in our region and an exciting opportunity to hear directly from young people. Here’s some of the key findings:
Only 16 per cent of Waiariki-Bay of Plenty young people are meeting physical activity guidelines
Although higher that the national average of 7 per cent, that still means 84 per cent of rangatahi in our rohe are not moving enough to meet the physical activity guidelines set by the Ministry of Health.
The decline in physical activity is seen in all secondary schools
Year 13 represents the highest proportion of inactive students, followed by Year 12 and 11 respectively. That decline is irrespective of the school rangatahi attend and, for the most part, the region they live in.
Female participation declines more quickly and steeply than males
Fifty-four per cent of males are active for five or more days a week compared to 41 per cent of females. This participation gap, which starts to grow from the age of 15, is consistently seen throughout the country and is what prompted Sport New Zealand to launch the national It’s My Move campaign.
The majority of teenagers are satisfied with their P.E. experience at school
P.E. is a required class until Year 10 – age 14 – so it’s therefore encouraging to see rangatahi rate their P.E. experiences as satisfactory or above. In fact, more than 30 per cent said they were very or extremely satisfied with physical activity and P.E. opportunities offered during class time.
Active transport is an opportunity to lift physical activity rates
The majority of surveyed students in all regions are getting to and from school via either a bus or private vehicle. In the Eastern Bay more students walk to school than catch the bus, but active transport emerges in the survey as an area worth exploring further and as a potential area for growth.
Confidence and skills have a significant impact on physical activity levels
Competence and confidence matter. Rangatahi who feel they have enough skills to participate are 7.5 time more likely to be highly active than their peers who don’t feel they have the skills. Similarly, rangatahi that are confident to participate in physical activities are nearly five times more likely to be highly active than those who report low confidence.
The picture that emerges from these insights is one in which adults can play a big role, but not necessarily in the ways that we’re used to. Let’s be honest, it can be really tempting as adults to step in and do or change something. We assume ‘build it and they will come’ works. Sport Bay of Plenty has been guilty of operating under this model, but despite years of offering and running a raft of activities we still have the vast majority of rangatahi in our region failing to meet physical activity guidelines.
One of the biggest actions we can take as adults is to stop. Listen. Then actively involve rangatahi in the decision-making and design of activities.
We know there’s a big drop off in participation from the age of 15, but do we know why? The insights from our Voice of Rangatahi regional survey, derived directly from young people, shows confidence plays a major role - as does feeling competent, having a safe and inclusive environment and offering activities that rangatahi would like to try or do more of.
Build it and they will come. But first it pays to listen and ensure young people are heard and have direct input into the physical activities available to them.
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