Juniors and Youth

What is junior sport?

Junior sport refers to the organisation and management of sport and pre-sport activities for young people from 5 to 17. Junior sport is important because it provides the entry to a lifelong involvement in sport that is increasingly important with our changing lifestyles.  

The vision for junior sport

The vision for junior sport in Australia is to provide safe and enjoyable environments to encourage the long-term participation of young people. The vision is based on the belief that, when presented and organised properly, sport:

  • makes a significant contribution to the physical, psychological and social well being of young people and
  • is an effective way of producing benefits for both the individual and Australian society. 

The junior sport experience

This encompasses not only training, practice and competition but also the opportunity to play with friends and have fun.

Experiences in junior sport are important for continued participation, either for enjoyment and recreation, or for the talented to reach their potential in elite sport.

This relies on:

  • a broad-based program and the sequential development of skills across a wide range of activities;
  • a positive experience at all levels;
  • pathways for young people to continue in their sport at more advanced levels and
  • recognition by sport providers that sport is a service and young people are their customers. 

Junior sport for a new age

Contemporary sporting experiences for young people need consideration of the ever-changing environment they are growing up in.

Constantly changing are:

  • family structures;
  • work commitments of parents/carers;
  • the demands on young people for their time (eg school and homework, sport, recreation);
  • consumerism and the need of young people to keep pace with their peers; 
    media and communication technologies (eg the internet and mobile phones);
  • perceptions of young people (their challenge of authority, and need for independence and individuality).

These changes continue to affect the ways in which young people access sport, the experiences they gain from their sporting opportunities, and the ways they communicate about these experiences.

The challenge is to deliver sport in a meaningful way for today’s young people, so they develop a passion for sport which takes them into adult life. 

Junior sport framework guidelines

The guidelines have been written by experts on issues related to the delivery of junior sport. They are designed to assist in the delivery of best practice in junior sport to encourage young people to make life-long commitment to sport. 

Sport is multi-faceted and nine topics have been selected to cover the needs of young people in sport.

The guidelines addressing these topics are generic so they apply to all sports include: 

  • Long-term involvement – Providing a quality sports experience so young people make a life-time commitment. 
  • Getting young people involved – Making sport open to all young people. 
  • Physical growth and maturation – Matching young people’s growth and maturation to their sporting experiences. 
  • Sport pathways – Moving progressively through junior sport. 
  • Forming links – Collaboration and communication for better delivery of junior sport. 
  • People making it happen – Delivering a positive sports experience to young people.
  • Quality coaching – Instructional skills and strategies for quality outcomes. 
  • Making sport safe – Protecting the health and welfare of young people through a safe sports experience. 
  • The law and sport – Ensuring a safe and secure environment for all junior sport participants.

Each guideline contains information vital to the topic, a summary of key points, and strategies for best practice.

Suggested resources are also listed, and case studies illustrate important features of the topic.

The major focus is providing for long-term involvement and all topics aim at this goal. A second focus is providing the right conditions to foster the talented young people who will move into elite ranks.  

Contemporary junior sport

The Australian Sports Commission hopes that the Junior Sport Guidelines will assist sport providers to shape contemporary junior sport experiences in Australia in the years ahead.

To do this, the guidelines are a living document and changes will be made as new information is available. Our investment in young people in sport will pay high dividends. They are the leaders of tomorrow, and our richest resource in building our sporting future.

Over the next three years, national sporting organisations will be developing sport-specific junior sport policies and guidelines which will be implemented throughout their respective sports at both State and club level.

Keep it fun

A parent’s behaviour on the sporting sideline can determine whether their child has a good time playing sport. Helping parents to be better role models and supporters means we can build nurturing environments for our kids to play sport and encourage their life-long participation.

Some parents take all the fun out of sport by the way they behave while watching their kids.

We have all seen the parent who:

  • puts too much emphasis on winning rather than the fun of competing;
  • forces their child into a sport they don’t want to play;
  • enrols their child at a highly competitive level, rather than a level they are comfortable with;
  • criticises their child’s mistakes during a game;
  • yells abuse at players, officials or the coach;
  • tries to coach and/or referee from the sideline;
  • constantly focuses on negative rather than positive play.

The Department of Sport and Recreation has developed a resource kit Keep It Fun – A Club's Guide to Encouraging Positive Parent Behaviour. This guide helps your club promote good behavior among parents so they can learn to be a positive influence on their child’s sporting experience.

The information sheets in this kit can be copied and used by your club to help guide parents to be great sports. 

Youth Sports Good Practice Guide

The Department of Sport and Recreation recently conducted a workshop of key stakeholders within youth sport. A major issue each was facing was difficulty with retaining young people in their sport.

Research into the drop-out rates of youth from sport echoes these concerns.

  • A survey of WA school children in 1996 (Taggart and Sharp) found that although 80 per cent of children aged 11-12 participated in sport, by the time they reached 16-17 years the figures dropped to 57 per cent. These figures include school, club and social sport. 
  • This survey also acknowledged that of the total number of youth who dropped out of sport, 42 per cent did so during the transition between Years 7 and 8. 
  • More recent research indicates these trends are continuing.

To ensure sport is attractive to young people, organisations delivering youth sport must fully understand why young people participate in and drop out of sport.

The Youth Sports Good Practice Guide is packed with real examples of how sports have addressed the issue of attracting and keeping young people in their sport.

Booklets to download