These include developing physical skills, making friends, getting exercise and learning teamwork. Having experienced the transformative power of sports herself, Dame Valerie shares her perspective on why playing sport is important for our tamariki and the life-long benefits it can have.
According to a 2017 report from Sport New Zealand on the importance of play, sport and play are key to the wellbeing of young New Zealanders and vital in ensuring they develop a lifelong love of community sport and physical activity. Whether at home, school or in the community, play is crucial to a child’s physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and spiritual development1.
Data from Sports New Zealand shows that participation in sport and active recreation, peaks between the ages of 12 to 14. This is followed by a significant drop in participation between the ages of 12 – 14 and 15 – 17, as children's lives get busier with schoolwork and other hobbies2.
A strong emphasis on winning and competitiveness in sports can also often overshadow children’s enjoyment, leading to decreased participation and impacting their overall well-being3. Balancing competition and enjoyment from simply taking part is crucial for sustaining youth engagement in sports4. Participation in sports not only promotes physical health but also equips children with important skills like teamwork, leadership, and communication. These benefits outweigh the competitive outcomes, emphasising the importance of engagement in supportive and well-structured sports environments5.
As one of the all-time greats of New Zealand athletics, we sought Dame Valerie Adams’ view on the importance of childhood sport.