Balance is best

What is it about?

Balance is Better is an evidence-based approach. The focus of the philosophy is on why young people play sport – to have fun, be challenged, develop and improve, be part of a team or group, and enjoy time with friends.

Sport NZ works with the sector to provide quality experiences in sport for all tamariki and rangatahi (young people aged 5-18), including for those who enjoy competition as well as those who just want to have fun.

There are three myths in youth sport that have been identified though research and are supported by evidence. The Balance is Better philosophy pushes back against these myths to stress that:

  1. Childhood success is not a reliable predictor of future success
  2. Identifying athletes early and specialising early is taking its toll on young people
  3. A focus on winning rather than development is a problem for young people, because it can have unintended consequences on their wellbeing and affect their motivation to take part

What needs to change?

Sport NZ encourages anyone responsible for delivering youth sport to adopt the Balance is Better philosophy. That means sport leaders, coaches, administrators, teachers and parents – all can make a difference. This is about supporting the sport system in leading change and committing to:

  • Ensuring all young people can receive a quality sport experience, irrespective of the level at which they are involved.
  • Leading attitudinal and behavioural change among the sport leaders, coaches, administrators, parents, and caregivers involved in youth sport.
  • Providing leadership to support changes to competition structures, participation, and athlete development opportunities.
  • Sports and schools identifying young talent later in their development, rather than sooner.
  • Reviewing the role and nature of national and regional representative selections and tournaments to ensure skill development opportunities are offered to more young people.
  • Supporting young people to participate in a range of activities and play multiple sports.
  • Raising awareness of the risks of overtraining and overloading and proactively managing workload.
  • Working collaboratively to encourage the widest possible change for the wellbeing and sport participation of young New Zealanders.
  • All New Zealanders having the right to participate in sport in an inclusive, fair and safe environment.

Balance is Better website –

This website supported by Sport NZ, provides tools and education for anyone involved in delivering youth sport. There are articles, interviews and case studies to give you the latest advice and coaching tips from trusted sources.