The department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries
expects that junior sport activities promote a fun, inclusive and safe
environment for its participants and encourage a lifelong commitment to a
healthy and active lifestyle. The department endorses the existing
Australian Sports Commission’s Junior Sport Framework and expects that
national and state sporting associations will have the necessary tools,
information and resources available to administrators and coaches to
ensure their programs are delivered appropriately. In addition, the department:
- Expects that junior sport programs should be based on the
principle of equality of participation. All players should be given
equal playing time and should be provided the opportunity to play
- Expects that when match scores are kept, it's the responsibility
of the coaches, officials, parents and support staff to ensure the
focus is on promoting enjoyment and development of fundamental motor
skills and not on who wins and loses.
- Is of the view that early specialisation is not necessary or
appropriate for children aged 12 and under. Evidence shows that
diversity (instead of specialisation) during childhood has a positive
effect on future elite performance as well as long-term participation in
In 2003 the ASC released the Junior Sport Framework (requires log in) as
a guide for all National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) to assist in the
delivery of best practice in junior sport and encourage a lifelong
commitment to sport from participants. Junior sport is usually defined
as inclusive of participants 12 years and under, although a range of
cut-off ages may apply across the wide range of sports, and modified
sports, offering programs to children. This position paper refers to
children aged 12 years and under.
Sport participation during childhood offers many immediate and long-term benefits, including:
- The formation of positive physical activity behaviours;
- Development of life-skills;
- Physical literacy; and
- Cognitive and social function.
The department emphasises that all sports should be cognisant of the
lasting effect that can be had from both a positive and negative
introduction to physical activity. There's good evidence it's the
experiences had at a younger age that can develop into a lifelong
commitment to physical activity. This position statement highlights the
key areas for consideration for those responsible for developing,
organising and conducting junior sport activities.
In addition to the well-known health benefits, the physiological and
social development gained through participation in sport can impart
valuable life skills such as confidence, self-esteem, teamwork, decision
making and resilience. All of these skills can contribute to
maintaining healthy physical activity levels into adulthood.
The ASC expects that any sport's participation and athlete
development structure takes into consideration a number of core
principles upon which junior sport policies and program development are
- Recognition that motivation for participation is based upon
enjoyment, which may include many things such as having fun, acquiring
skills and experiencing positive self-concept and interaction with
- Flexibility in program design to
account for the variability in the rate of maturation among children.
Program design may also consider whether gender inclusion (i.e. boys and
girls competing together) is desirable and age appropriate.
of the physical and psychological developmental stages and capabilities
that exist during childhood. Programs must respond to the capabilities
and age appropriate needs of children. The emergence of modified sports
programs is a direct response to these needs.
principles that allow a variety of sport and physical activity
opportunities to take place in a safe environment. Child protection in a
sporting environment is a critical consideration.
of pathways, for both elite and community participants, so that
sporting experiences and learnt skills become part of a long-term or
The department expects that NSOs work towards developing junior sport specific programs such as AFL Auskick, Netball Australia’s Net-Set-Go and Cricket Australia’s In2Cricket.
Modifying the traditional rules of the game promotes a fun, inclusive,
safe and high involvement environment that promotes lifelong involvement
in sport and physical activity.
The selection of junior teams involves balancing individual
participation with skill development and the shift towards greater
competition as children mature. Play by the Rules,
a collaboration of government agencies working in the child safety
space, including the ASC and the department, promotes the philosophy
that junior sport should maximise individual participation and that
children are less like to enjoy sport if there is an over emphasise on
winning. The department supports the Play by the Rules recommendation
that State Sporting Associations and community clubs promote a culture
that emphasises participation over winning and losing.
As skills develop, sports should offer a variety of appropriate
competitive opportunities to ensure participants are engaged. Sports
have a responsibility to deliver programs that create a personal
challenge for all participants and provides for a sense of achievement.
NSOs have adopted a variety of scoring policies that complement their
overall junior sport objectives:
- AFL: no score, ladders or finals are permitted up to and including under 10s Auskick;
- Netball: scores may be kept but no ladder produced while participating in Net-Set-Go;
- Cricket: scores can be kept, at the discretion of the club.
Evidence shows that age appropriate competition can be necessary for
maintaining the interest of the participant. Learning how to manage
behaviour in adversity is a natural part of children’s development and
helps to develop life skills such as resilience and good teamwork. Based
on the research available and the ASC’s information on children market segmentation,
the department’s position is that junior sport activities should
promote opportunities that maximise participation and remove the
obstacles that limit it. Examples include not scheduling finals for
under-12 competitions and not implementing a selection process that
leaves some children regularly out of the game.
The department strongly emphasises that junior sport programs should
be based on the principle of equality of participation. All players
should be given equal playing time and should be rotated through
positions. When competition scores are kept, it's the responsibility of
the coaches, officials, parents and support staff to ensure the focus is
on promoting enjoyment and development of fundamental motor skills and
not on the result. The best junior sport programs have made appropriate
adjustments to the traditional rules of the game to maximise enjoyment
and contribute towards long term involvement.
The sport pathway spans the entire continuum of athletic development –
from initiation of fundamental movement and participation in physical
activity through to proficiency at a mastery level.
Sports should consider the ASC’s Foundations, Talent, Elite and Mastery model
when delivering and developing pathways for all participants, not just
those who have elite aspirations. Competition, education and training
should reflect the current level of the athlete and take into
consideration the necessary skills required at each level.
Sports should design and provide the necessary pathways that cater
for young people and allow for the development of the necessary skills
so that junior participants can easily move through the participation
pathway. Each sport has a responsibility to develop its own pathways to
meet the needs of the sport and its participants.
Talent identification and development pathway
The department’s position is that specialisation is not necessary or
appropriate for children under 12. Evidence shows that best practice sub
elite and elite programs should be designed to encourage
diversification early and specialisation late. The International Journal
of Sport and Politics (2014) states that:
...Specialised programmes at
a young age (6-12) to develop elite level athletes are not necessary in
most sports. Instead, providing opportunities for all children to
participate in various informal and organisation recreational sports
should be the focus of sport programmers…
In other words, diversity
(instead of specialisation) during childhood has a positive effect on
future elite performance as well as long-term participation in the
such as this highlights the importance of junior athletes having the
opportunity to participate in a variety of sports during their
development. In addition, the Journal of Sports Sciences (2013) found
that junior athletes participating in a variety of sports at a younger
age were more likely to compete at the elite level in their chosen sport
later in life. This evidence supports the department’s position that
there's no need for sports to select representative sides for under-12
competitions. These early years are best focused on participation,
progression of fundamental skills and developing a commitment to
lifelong participation in physical activity.
The community club environment
Every child has the right to participate in sport and recreation
within a safe environment. Although the department for Child Protection
and Family Support and the WA Police are
legally responsible for the protection of children in Western
Australia, the industry also has a responsibility to create safe
environments for safe participation by children. The department has
partnered with the WA Sports Federation to
develop a framework for sports to create child-safe environments and
minimise risk. Coaches, teachers, support staff and administrators
should familiarise themselves with their responsibilities and ensure
that they adopt and implement the appropriate strategies.
The school environment
Schools are acknowledged as excellent settings for the promotion and
delivery of sport and physical activity opportunities as well as
developing connections to the community. Sports should ensure that there
is goodwill and cooperation between service providers. Good
communication and consultation will lead to a coordinated and
complementary approach to junior sport. To support any sport and
physical activity program, the department recommends a whole of school
approach where staff, students, parents and the wider community are
The family environment
Parents and guardians play a key role in creating healthy
environments for their children. In order to achieve this, many parents
will need information and education on the benefits of physical activity
and on the importance of positive and acceptable behaviours in sport
The department developed Keep It Fun to
help sports promote good behaviour among parents so that they can learn
to be a positive influence on their child’s sporting experience. This
is complemented by the Active Parent Education Kit which provides parents of Western Australia with resources to optimise their child’s sport and recreation experience.
Manager, Industry Development
Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries – Sport and Recreation
Telephone 61 8 9492 9725
Bridge, M., and Toms, M. (2013). The specialisation or sampling
debate: a retrospective analysis of adolescent sports participation in
the UK. Journal of Sports Sciences, 31(1), 87-96.
Cote, J., and Hancock, D. (2014). Evidence based policies for youth sport programmes. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, DOI: 10.1080/19406940.2014.91938.
01 February 2015
01 February 2017