Balance is Better is an evidence-based philosophy developed by Sport NZ to support quality sport experiences for all young people regardless of ability, needs and motivations. It’s about young people staying involved in sport for life and realising their potential at the right time, and developed along the principles of skill development for all, balancing getting better with not doing too much, and providing quality experiences regardless of ability or motivation.

We know that if kids stop having fun, they stop playing sport.  



We’ve long been advocates of the Balance is Better philosophy. From launching the award-winning Whole of Football Plan back in 2011, to aligning with Balance is Better in 2019, we’re continually evolving how we run Junior and Youth Football to ensure all young people playing football and futsal have quality experiences no matter what level they’re involved in. 

We’re asking all our parents, whanau, coaches, managers, and volunteers involved with football and futsal to remember that young people play sport to have fun, be challenged, develop and improve, be part of a team or group, and enjoy time with friends. 

The myths of junior and youth sport
The Balance is Better philosophy centres around debunking three myths of junior and youth sport:

  • Myth 1: Early specialisation is good
  • Myth 2: Childhood success leads to adult success
  • Myth 3: Successful athletes focus on winning

We know these myths specifically relate to a small number of people (players, coaches and parents) who engage in sport at a more competitive level. We’re working hard to ensure they’re well informed, and that the systems and structures in place support their ongoing development to:

  • Provide positive experiences for players of all ages and abilities 
  • Enable players to reach senior football while being able to express themselves and execute within the New Zealand Football playing style
  • Provide those who are striving to be professional footballers and represent the All Whites and Ford Football Ferns the development opportunities to do so.

Football is an early engagement sport

  • Football and futsal are considered early engagement sports. This means that, to master the sport, it’s important that players experience the game from an early age. This isn't the same as specialising in a sport early. 
  • Early specialisation is involvement in a chosen sport in an organised setting up to 13 years of age at the exclusion of all other sports.
  • We want kids to participate in other sports alongside football. This will help them develop the technical, tactical, mental and physical skills to support their football development, ensure they are less prone to injury, and keep them playing and active well into their adult life.
  • Research shows that playing multiple sports through childhood and early adolescence has a strong positive impact on the success people have in their chosen sport later in life.
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Our All Whites and Ford Football Ferns played multiple sports in their early years

Our elite players prove you don’t need to specialise early to become a top player. In a survey we conducted with the All Whites and Ford Football Ferns, over 90% of the players believed that playing other sports throughout their development helped them to develop into an international footballer.

Average number of sports played by All Whites and Ford Football Ferns during development years

AgeAll WhitesFord Football Ferns
12 and under3.252.3