27 Aug 2020

Sport New Zealand no closer to 'revolution' - Bidwell

4:52 pm on 27 August 2020

Opinion - Sadly, the revolution hasn't begun where I live.

 mixed kid teams rugby

Photo: 123RF

No, a year on from the announcement that Sport New Zealand, along with Hockey NZ, NZ Cricket, Netball NZ, NZ Rugby and NZ Football were embarking on "a dramatic shake-up" of youth sport, I'm not aware of any change.

I referred to it as a "stunt" at the time and "well-intentioned gobbledigook'' and have yet to see any evidence to the contrary.

"We're taking a stand to bring the fun and development focus back to sport for all young people,'' Sport NZ chief executive Peter Miskimmin trumpeted in a joint press release with the five codes.

The governing bodies committed to things such as "ensuring all young people who play our sports receive a quality experience, irrespective of the level at which they compete.''

I'm still waiting for the promised "development opportunities'' for the cricket and rugby teams I coach, but my personal favourite from that press release remains the promise of the six signatories to lead "attitudinal and behavioral change among the sport leaders, coaches, administrators, parents and caregivers involved in youth sport.''

I have written about sport in New Zealand for decades, but I genuinely have no idea what Sport New Zealand does.

I should do and I assume the failing there is mine. But I can - hand on heart - say I don't have a clue what that outfit stands for or what it actually delivers.

There's regular press releases, of course, such as the one earlier this week pledging $68 million to mostly help five to 18-year-olds exercise.

"In the first year we have placed special emphasis on those whose physical activity levels have been impacted most by Covid-19, which we know from our research are girls and young women, disabled people, those in higher deprivation communities and a slightly higher age bracket of young women aged 19 to 24,'' said Miskimmin.

Good luck with that.

I owe pretty much everything I have to sport. Most of the friends I've made, I made in sports teams.

It's given me employment and fun and trips and my life would be much the poorer without it.

I owe none of that to Sport New Zealand, though.

Outgoing Sport New Zealand chief executive officer Peter Miskimmin.

Outgoing Sport New Zealand chief executive Peter Miskimmin. Photo: Photosport

There's been the odd influential parent or teacher along the way, but we were mostly taught and supported and developed by our peers.

We learned about life and about values from each other, not some organisation. And just as well. We'd have been fat out of luck if we'd sat waiting for Sport New Zealand to save the day.

My local rugby club is typical of many in this country. It survives on gaming-trust money and the heroic efforts of volunteers.

Those wonderful people, in many cases women, who drive children to and from games and practices.

Who wash the jumpers, cut the oranges, manage the teams, work on the sausage sizzle and behind the bar, who make the meals for the seniors, sell the club merchandise and run the raffles and the mystery envelopes.

It's an insult to those people for national bodies to claim that they're committed to changing outcomes and improving prospects.

To pretend as though they even care about this volunteer army or have any intention of living up to the grandiose claims of their press releases.

At many clubs, and in many codes, there is one influential parent holding things together.

One parent, upon whose shoulders lies the responsibility for delivering youth sport to that community.

Take that parent away and that club will fall over.

And where will the good folk from Sport New Zealand be then? Out for lunch with a key stakeholder or away on some team-building weekend?

Definitely not on hand to get youth sport in that wee town back on its feet again.

I'm all for sport, all for the development of young people, all for stronger clubs helping build stronger communities, but let's be honest about who's delivering that and how.

It's pokie machines and volunteers and nothing to do with Sport New Zealand and their ilk.