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Practice Principles

Research shows that young people highly value the intrinsic rewards gained from participating in sport and recreation. The rewards that young participants gain from learning a new skill, or simply being involved in activities with their friends, often mean more than extrinsic rewards such as winning trophies or awards.

The following principles should be applied by coaches, parents, instructors, teachers and administrators involved in leading, supporting or managing rugby for teenagers.


Focused On

In Practice

1. Create a safe social and physical environment

Teenagers must feel physically and socially safe when they participate in sport and recreation. The provider has responsibility to provide a duty of care and protect teenagers from physical, social and emotional harm.

Quality experiences

• There must be plans and procedures in place to ensure that potential risks are minimised, removed or managed effectively to protect participants from harm.

• Suitable facilities should be available and accessible for teenagers’ sport and recreation

• Check that facilities and grounds are in good order and safe to use

• Avoid repetitive drills as these are likely to cause injury and boredom

• Ensure that teenagers treat each other with respect and fairness

• Ensure the availability of safe and appropriate equipment, including protective gear where necessary

• Positively encourage the development of correct technique, and appropriate physical and technical skills.

2. Treat teenagers with dignity and respect

Teenagers expect to be treated sensitively and respectfully during their sport and recreation experiences.

• Participant-centred


• Values

• Where possible, teenagers should be given a chance to contribute ideas, especially about decisions that affect them

• Create an environment where all participants are equal and accepted

• Recognise and value the social and cultural perspectives that young participants bring with them

• Show an interest in the teenager’s life and be sensitive to the stresses, demands and challenges of adolescence

• Don’t mock or demean participants and avoid stereotyping.

3. Model good behaviour and values

Teenagers have the opportunity to learn and develop positive values and attitudes associated with sport and recreation through their participation experiences.

• Role modelling/


• Learning and


• Leadership


• Set and model expectations of behaviour for teens, parents, coaches,

supporters and officials

• Encourage parents to positively participate in and contribute to their teenager’s sport and recreation

• Always act with integrity

• Understand that teenagers value fairness and have expectations of adults in terms of behaviour and support

• Consider the concepts of winning and success from the perspective of teenagers, rather than imposing adult views

• Remember that teenager’s sport and recreation is about their interests and aspirations, not those of their parents or coaches.

4. Be consistent

Coordination between providers means there will be consistency of delivery in terms of rules applied, modifications and competition groupings, and smooth transitions between providers such schools and clubs, all of which are beneficial to teenagers.

• Quality experiences

• Cooperation between providers

• Develop connections with other providers to ensure consistent approaches to sport and recreation delivery

• Consider the role of regular communication, using shared resources, joint policy development and shared facility use as ways to develop closer links

5. Become familiar with developmental ages and stages

Developmental age and stage, and the concept of readiness, play an important part in determining when a teenager progress in sport and recreation.

Readiness will depend on a teenager’s social, emotional and cognitive development, as well as their physical development.

• Participant-centred

• Player development


• Encourage teenagers to be as physically active as possible

• Emphasise the development and mastery of skills – both individual and team – and help participants develop positive attitudes and values associated with ‘good’ sport

• Become familiar with your sport’s player development pathway and the learning required at each stage of development

• Assess the physical, technical and cognitive capability of your participants, and use that assessment as the basis for your participant development plan.

6. Ensure there is full participation

and inclusion

Every teenager has the right and should be encouraged to participate in sport and recreation, regardless of their individual ability, socio-economic situation, ethnicity,gender or any other factor.

• Equity

• Fun and enjoyment

• Leadership development

• Accommodate individual differences and abilities by offering a broad range of activities and competition structures

• Give teenagers a chance to contribute to planning and decision making in their activities

• Foster participant-centred protocols.

7. Modify or adapt activities to suit

the ability of participants

• Learning

• Fun and enjoyment

• Modify the activity to match the developmental stages and skills of the participants.

• Modified versions of sports should:

– resemble the sport from which they are derived

– be safe to play and yet still challenging for participants

– provide players with skills that are a relevant base for progressing to the

parent sport

– reduce excessive physical demand placed on teenagers from adult equipment and field sizes

– emphasise fun, participation and skill development over competition

– reduce the likelihood of domination by physically stronger or early maturing players.

8. Prepare teenagers to compete successfully

Teenagers cannot compete effectively when they do not have the required skills. Programmes that emphasise skill development and success through effort provide more fun and enjoyment, and increase the likelihood of retaining teenagers in sport over time

• Participant-centred

• Fun and enjoyment

• Winning vs. success

• Focus on developing a wide range of basic sports skills that lead to increased mastery, self-confidence and competence

• Praise effort, hard-work, improvement and fair play

• Do not label teens as good or bad at their sport – they will flourish if they are praised for their effort

• Implement the New Zealand Coach Approach philosophy through coaching and development programmes. The NZ Coach Approach emphasises the philosophy of participants as learners, and coaches as facilitators of participant learning and development.