Community Changes


Small Sticks competition review 2020 

In partnership with AUT, Hockey NZ are planning to conduct a research project to compare other formats against our existing 6-a-side and 11-a-side options currently offered. The resulting evidence will guide future decisions. 

Small Sticks modified games were developed to provide participants with age-appropriate formats with consideration to the benefits of small-sided games. It is based on worldwide evidence complied to increase the numbers of children in sport, while also assisting them to improve more rapidly, increase their enjoyment level and to ensure they continue to participate in future years. 


Sport is Changing 

HNZ along with Sport NZ and four of the country’s largest participation sports are taking a stand to bring the fun and skills development focus back into the game for all young people. This includes pushing back against early specialisation, over-emphasis on winning and other factors that are driving too many young New Zealanders away from sport. 

All have signed a Statement of Intent that will pave the way for substantial change in the way youth experience sport in Aotearoa. 

Our Commitment 

Individually and collectively, we commit to: 

    • 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 sports 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 skill development opportunities are offered to more young people 
    • Supporting young people to play multiple sports. 
    • Raising awareness of the risks of overtraining and overloading. 

We have also announced plans to launch an integrated marketing campaign early next year to take these important messages to clubs, schools, parents, coaches, administrators and others involved in the delivery of youth sport. 

Click here for the Signed Statement of Intent 

Supporting Information

Changing Youth Sport (Alex Chiet – Sport NZ) – click here


Does this mean there won’t be any more tournaments? 

Of course not, tournaments / festivals can be an important development opportunity for all young people. 

What it does mean is there will be different formats for competitions and tournaments to meet the different motivations and needs of our youth. Some will be more competitive, and development focused and some will be more aimed at young people having fun while being active. 

What is most important is that all young people receive a quality experience, not just the so-called talented, and that those that have aspirations for the future manage their workload and how much they do while they are still developing. 

Should young people be encouraged to win? 

Young people tell us they don’t care so much about winning and care more about having fun with their friends. The sports system needs to work to ensure we provide more social connections and opportunities to ensure more young people can benefit from the wider value of sport 

Learning how to compete is important for our youth, but we do not want an over-emphasis on competition from parents, caregivers, coaches, administrators and leaders. This can result in a decrease in development opportunity and enjoyment and can lead to injuries due to overloading and specialising too early for our young people. Young people need to try things, make mistakes and learn – it is all part of development. 

What is most important in a competition setting is that young people can reinforce the things they have been practicing, trying them in games/competition, and being part of a team. 

What about our talented players? 

Talented now may not be talent in the future. We need to give young people time to develop, and that won’t happen if they walk away from sport. 

Good practice, research and evidence tells us that childhood success is not a reliable predictor of adult success. And not all young people develop at the same rate. 

What is most important is the appropriate development for their age and stage, rather than rushing high performance behaviours too soon that will likely have a negative impact on them realising their potential as an adult. 

Yes, talented players need to be extended and challenged, but at a rate and pace that ensures we do not harm their future potential and that ensures they have balance. 

We have very strong evidence domestically and internationally to support this campaign. 

What is the intent of the Keep Up With The Play integrated campaign? 

The six organisations have announced plans to launch an integrated marketing campaign early next year to take these important messages to clubs, schools, parents, caregivers, coaches, administrators and others involved in the delivery of youth sport. 

The campaign will speak to five shifts, being widely held myths about best practice in youth sport development, and the unintended negative consequences; 

Balance is Better Document

Sport NZ has already launched a youth sport development portal for these audiences to communicate the message that ‘balance is better’ via educational content and video. Click here for the link.

Why only these five sports? 

The concept of a united stand emerged from discussions that took place in a Sport NZ Sport Development Leader Residential that all five were involved in. It was clear that the group had a shared philosophy and commitment and, given the size of the collective membership, could work together to make a real difference to public thinking. As the campaign evolves, there are no doubt going to be other sports that wanted to join the collaborative action and embed the philosophies of ‘balance is better’ into their mindsets and programme structures. 

What happens next? 

We do not see this as a one-off message; we see this as an enduring philosophy and collective action and commitment that will improve sport experiences for young people in coming years. Sport NZ and the sports involved in the release of the Statement of Intent will continue to work together and welcome other sports to become involved. Phase two, an integrated marketing campaign, will launch in 2020. 

How can we join the campaign? Can other sports get involved? 

Any sport can change their approach to youth sport to join collective action around ‘balance is better’. This may mean making changes to traditional structures, age-group competitions and representative events, providing alternative pathways and ensuring quality experiences for all youth. This is much more than a campaign, it is a commitment to make a stand for what is right for our young people and then working with sporting memberships nationally, regionally and locally to change participation and development offerings. The actions need to follow the words.