Balance is Better- Modified Sports Week- A Secondary School perspective

Balance is Better- Modified Sports Week- A Secondary School perspective


Balance is Better- Modified Sports Week- A Secondary School perspective

 Rebecca Scott RSD Taranaki Secondary Schools Sports Association.

Balance is Better from a Secondary School perspective 

How a participant focused approach as opposed to Sport led means a better quality experience for Rangatahi and greater participation at school and club level.

Deconstructing a traditional Junior Sports Week and competition structure to give us Modified Sports Week. This is what Regional Sport can look like.

Taranaki Secondary Schools Sports Association is a College Sport Organisation, that sits outside of the Regional Sports Trust. We have a comprehensive Events Calendar which provides quality sports and physical activity opportunities for Secondary School Students in Taranaki, and we support Schools and RSO’s with advocacy and leadership within the Taranaki Sporting space.

  • The launch of the Sport NZ BIB philosophy supported our organisation’s aims and allowed us to broaden our reach using resources and stories that are relevant to our secondary schools.
  • It also gave us a foundation to collaborate with our Regional Sports Trust and RSO’s, Schools, parents and students to take opportunities and navigate through risk. 
  • The BIB philosophy sits equally alongside Integrity and Inclusion in all our Programs. 
    • We know that half of our students are active and competing in sport for their school, we need to look at ways to engage the non-participant students. 

Why is Balance is Better important

Student voice told us they wanted a fun participation based event at the end of the year, which has been our catalyst for change, and we have been it keeping it relevant to students since the program started in 2014. 

It has given us the opportunity to deconstruct how a traditional Junior Sports week and competition structure looks like.  We are providing an alternative to a competitive sports structure. This is what Regional sport can look like.

What is Modified Sports Week?

It is a Student led and participation focused modified sports week for juniors Year 9 and 10 held in Term 4. 

Modified Sports such as Force back, Spacies, Fast 5 Netball, Cricket 6’s, Kiwi Tag, Ultimate Frisbee, Renegade Hockey and many more feature over the week. The days are structured with anywhere from one modified sport to last year we trialed having 2-3 sports on a day. 

It is an inter school event which involves all sixteen secondary schools including three Kura Kaupapa. The modified sports days are shared around the region, alternating between North and South and each day sees over 300 students at a different school or sports ground in Taranaki.

To really set the scene on how BIB has been incorporated, the event is structured in the following way 

  • It is a Round Robin with no results and winners
  • We Encourage mixed/composite teams
  • There are no finals for any Modified sports week events. Sports teams will be re-grouped after lunch to ensure games are more evenly matched. 
  • All games are self-officiated & if there is a dispute, team captains come to an agreement. 
  • There are no referees . We have boundaries and set the environment but if we leave the students to self-referee they develop a new skill set. 
  • Each team elects a team captain and this person is responsible for the draw, and sorting any game disputes. 
  • Having a captains meeting ½ way through the day so students can write on hands where they came in their pool so they can correlate it to the draw. This is making students take responsibility for their own physical activity and really worked as we didn’t have to read out the draw. 
  • If we have a bye in the draw we slot a teachers/Sports Staff team in to play against the students.
  • Ethos - Participation & Having Fun!! 

How do we get schools to buy in? 

  • We reinforce that it is an opportunity for non-participants. We try to influence the schools that these are the students we are targeting with consistent messaging of being Social and participation based. 
  • We have a known track record for providing quality sports Events so it compliments the other qualifying and competitive events on our TSSSA calendar by being focused on Juniors, fun, inclusive and encouraging fair play. 
  • We ensure our Health and Safety Record documentation and reviews are up to date. 
  • The timing of the Event is really important as a Secondary Schools core focus is learning and there is a push from Principals to have events out of curriculum time. Term 4, and post any junior exams is an ideal time. 
  • Early Communication to schools is important for entries and we provide information on the modified sports such as a video of basic how to play Force Back for example so schools can incorporate this learning into a PE lesson and or lunchtime activity prior to the event.
  • Schools recognise the value of Sport in Education values based learning. We need to Change the focus around what we celebrate in sport – instead of being results/numbers focused . Use skills & learnings such as confidence, inclusiveness, self-management, relating to others as a lever to get kids out of school & participating in sport. 
  • We can also use those values and characteristics of sport that students readily understand to reinforce their school culture and values.
  • Schools get the opportunity to host a modified sports day on their school grounds.  A locally led event, takes away the barrier away of transport meaning greater participation from lower decile and rural schools. It also is a way of bringing mahi to their school and encourage other students to sign up. 

We get students to buy in? 

  • As it is Student led and designed- Each year an Instagram poll tells us what Year 9 and 10 students want at Modified Sports.
  • Students choose their own music - Dress up is optional
  • It allows students to have fun with their friends in a social environment while being active in a non- structured way. 

We do this by offering different grades

  • a competitive grade 
  • a social grade ( this grade is aimed at those students new to the sport)
  • At a recent focus group at a school in New Plymouth we found that although there were a multitude of quality basketball and 3x3 practices and teams on offer - They did not meet the needs of the students that we were engaging with.
  • They were after less structured, play with your mates with an emphasis on fun but still competitive when on the court. 
  • The students had commented that they did not like playing with the “school teams” due to lack of perceived confidence and skill level.

How do we get RSO’s to buy in? 

  • It is a safe, inclusive and fun way to introduce students to a new sport- The RSO can often try out a new format in a shortened time frame before offering it to a larger audience. 
  • Having those really good relationships with RSO’s and clubs and understanding their capability means that we can establish roles and responsibilities and co construct to deliver a quality experience. Sport specifics from the RSO, while we take care of the marketing and Event running with a shared responsibility for volunteers on the day. 
  • RSO’s get to engage and work together with other RSO’s. There is real value in Collaboration across Codes which we have seen increase in the last year with Rugby and Rugby League, Cricket and Football and how they have worked together to better align their sports in the region with timing of competition structure and practices. This has also filtered through to the Taranaki Good Sports which has seven Sports Codes working together. 
  • The RSO’s don’t need to chase schools by collaborating with an organisation that already has an established relationship with Secondary Schools. Every region has a RSD (Regional Sports Director) either in a Regional Sports Trust or a College Sport Organisation.    
  • It is an opportunity to support the smaller clubs and RSO’s and help them to grow the awareness of their sport. While not the main focus it can also lead onto students joining teams and an increase in club memberships. 


These have been many Challenges and it is easy to want to change a lot but we have had to take the small wins. 

  1. Students self -refereeing their own games. This was a challenge for Teachers in Charge, Sports Staff and Students.
  • After being used to an organised sport model TIC/Sports Staff were worried that Students wouldn’t be-able to agree on the rules of the game and if Fair decisions would be made.

Adult preconceptions can get in the way of change so we worked closely with the Sports Staff /TIC at Schools with consistent messaging and because of the relationship that we had built up they trusted us that we were making the right decision. We have seen a gradual shift in attitude amongst the Sports Staff/TIC when they saw the students taking ownership. 

  • Three years into the change we are seeing better decision making and this behaviour has transferred to our other TSSSA Events. 

An example of this was at our Netball event, some school teams were short of players. The students took ownership of the issue and without prompting they agreed to share students for individual games as and when required. For students we have seen a shift towards self-management. 

  1. We influenced the teachers/sports staff that with less adult intervention and more time for the adults to actively participate (by making room in the draw for a sports staff/teachers team) outside of the classroom, means better engagement and outcomes for student and teachers are created in the classroom.

A student from Hawera High School quoted “ In year 9 fitting into a class of new people, new school, changing teachers every class it was pretty daunting for 12 year old me! But Cress coached my sister, and co-coached me for track, so seeing him during the day during english class, then later interacting with him on the athletics field, I was able to become more comfortable with him. Therefore, in the classroom, instead of the standard scary teacher, scared student vibe, we became balanced on the trust and respect scale. This has had a positive effect in multiple areas in and out of school. During class I would ensure to hand in my assessments on time and do the work in class, so it wouldn’t be awkward going to training after getting a talking to or yelled at earlier, so I performed better in the class room because of it. I didn’t want to lose the respect we had, or the coach athlete respect we had earned for each other during trainings and in class time I really did try my best because he believed in me to do so. Being in productions together also ha d a positive effect. During  productions together if I had a problem or something was wrong I knew I could go to him and not be judged. Same as asking a question class, I once would’ve been too scared to ask. 


So I’m conclusion, it wasn’t some life changing experience like I got amazing grades or my focus being so much more. But I really wanted to go to class and do well in it, and then perform well on the athletics track knowing he was behind me every step. Performing on stage it was always nice  knowing he had my back and he wasn’t just a scary teacher. Then in time, became a coach and fellow cast member I really respected and always had a good laugh with, without the weirdness of a normal student teacher awkward relationship.”

  • Broader BIB messaging on our social media platforms, and student voice with a social participation based approach has highlighted a shift in focus from developing a winner to skill development.
  • The biggest challenge with No Results has been overcoming an expectation and focus on Enjoyment as opposed to points on the table. 
  • No winners, the only winners on the day are students who we recognise as being Good Sports.  ie students showing good sportsmanship
  • We found the purpose has changed from the first year when students were so used to handing in results to three years down the track with a shift in behaviour .When we stopped worrying about the results then the students did as well .
  • Other challenges have been
  1. Overcoming our fear as Event organisers of ensuring that we are still providing a quality experience for students with minimal adult interaction.
  2. Belief in student ownership . This was important to us to know that were enjoying themselves, that it was a quality experience so we talked to students through Instagram as that’s the medium that worked for them. 

Learnings/ Summary

Collaboration between School and RSO and helping to bridge that gap has led to attitudinal change. It is key to engage with the RSD and RST in your region who work closely within the secondary schools.

We have navigated push back through education, success stories and a drip drip approach. Each year we review as students and the environment that they live in are changing rapidly so we need to adapt and remain relevant through student voice. Give students input into design and delivery.

Quality experiences for Rangatahi need to be student led opportunities as opposed to sport led and with this approach we will see greater participation at school and club level. 

As a Secondary School organisation , this is what we have done. Our role in ensuring the Balance is Better philosophy to support quality sport experiences for young people. What we have seen from changing our Modified Sports Week is not only an increase in participation across the board but 

  • Greater confidence from students (in particularly apparent amongst females) and interaction from schools and Kura Kaupapa who two years ago did not have the confidence or the skills to take part in any inter school event.  
  • Students from lower decile schools have been given the opportunity to develop skills in a modified version of a traditional sport in a safe participation focused event thrived and are now regularly playing in a club based competition.  

We are meeting the needs of Rangatahi by providing them with a quality experience and we are changing the meaning of success.



Rebecca Scott

Regional Sports Director

Taranaki Secondary Schools' Sports Association

Te Ropu Hakinakina o Nga Kura Tuarua o Taranaki

06 759 0930 ext 705 / 021367232 /