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Balance is Better approach to sport

Regulus // Issue 2 // August 2023

More news for Sport

John Haggart (standing) going over the new sports framework with sports leaders (from left) Ben Eves, Rod McIntosh and Mike Johnston.St Andrew’s has an enviable sporting reputation, producing champions and excellence across many different codes.

But not everyone can be a Maadi Cup winner, or a gold medallist in their sport, and it’s important to measure success across the whole sports programme, and not just at the highest levels, says John Haggart, who has joined the Sports Leadership and Development team at the College. “Success should be measured in various ways beyond winning, including engagement and personal growth. It’s important we recognise the efforts of all students, from those who aspire to be national champions to those who have worked hard to move up from a lower-level team. The framework aims to create a supportive and inclusive environment where every student can thrive and find success in their own way.”

John is currently leading the adoption of the ‘Balance is Better’ approach to sport at St Andrew’s and developing a framework that will encompass the entire sports programme. This evidence-based philosophy emphasises inclusivity, diversity, and engagement, with the aim of ensuring that young people stay involved in sports and realise their potential at the right time. He has been conducting research and gathering feedback from various stakeholders including parents, teachers, coaches, and students, ensuring the framework aligns with the needs and aspirations of the students and identifying desired behaviours, actions, and team dynamics.

The framework has four cornerstones which are based on the key behaviours and actions identified. It has been cleverly branded with the thistle; an emblem of pride worn by generations of sportspeople at St Andrew’s College.
One of the main objectives of the ‘Balance is Better’ approach is to avoid burnout and promote mental health and well-being among athletes. “The new framework recognises the importance of looking after athletes at all levels and ensuring they have a balanced and enjoyable experience in sports. The College is doing great things when it comes to well-being and mental health, and sport has to align with that too,” says John.

As part of the new framework, the College has been creating a school-wide Selection Policy that aligns with the ‘Balance is Better’ approach. “The policy emphasises fair and objective selection processes, effective communication, and has clear objectives, assessment criteria, and processes. It also has a bit more flexibility so if say, a football player misses his trial because he is at Maadi Cup, he gets a different opportunity to show his skills,” says John.

The decline in youth sport participation is a concerning trend that the ‘Balance is Better’ approach seeks to address. Statistics from Active NZ and School Sport New Zealand highlight the need for a cultural change in how sport is approached, particularly among teenagers. By adopting the ‘Balance is Better’ philosophy and implementing the new framework, St Andrew’s aims to reverse this trend and keep young people engaged in sport for life.

The framework was widely circulated before it was formally adopted, with the principles already being lived by the various departments, says John. “Several aspects of the framework are already embedded at the College. The key is to get all of us on the same page under one College-wide sport framework, with greater co-ordination and communication, to ensure we are making the students’ journey and experience in sport the best it can be.”

John Haggart leads sports with ‘Balance is Better’—a framework promoting inclusivity, well-being, and lifelong engagement in youth sports.