CEO update on Shaping the future of gymnastics in Aotearoa

GNZ AdminCEO / Board Updates, Gymnastics New Zealand, Independent Review

An update from Andrea:

Kia ora gymnastics community members,
I’m writing to update you on work being done by Gymnastics NZ and throughout the gymnastics community in Aotearoa to ensure participation in our sport is a rewarding, positive experience for all.
As many of you will know, a lot of mahi is underway, and this along with further projects due to start will shape the future of gymnastics in New Zealand.
A detailed summary of that work can be found here or please read on for a quick rundown of some of the most important developments since I last wrote to you in February.

Ensuring the safety of the thousands of children who participate in gymnastics in Aotearoa is at the heart of everything we are doing to create a bright future for our sport.
So, we’ve been working with Safeguarding Children New Zealand to create a framework for our sport that will be best in class – that’s the feedback we’re getting from Safeguarding Children New Zealand.
Our framework will ensure:

  • Every gymnastics club has dedicated child safeguarding representative and fit for purpose Child Protection Policy
  • All coaches must complete child safeguarding online training
  • Dedicated safeguarding training for the youth coaches who make up a large percentage of the coaches at our clubs
  • Clubs are supported to develop a culture where the safety and well-being of children is central to everything they do

Gymnastics NZ intends to set the standard in New Zealand for participant safeguarding.

Athlete Wellbeing
As an important step in improving athlete wellbeing in gymnastics we commissioned research from AUT into appropriate training levels and limits based on the age and stage of gymnasts. We’re due to receive that research shortly – and will then consult with the community on how the findings should be put into practice.

One of the real challenges for our sport is that there is a broad range of views and personal perspectives on what ‘good’ looks like when it comes to training volume and intensity. It is vital that we arrive at a consensus view of what is appropriate for an athlete’s wellbeing, so we’ll be coming to you and asking for your views on the research and how it can shape what training looks like for athletes at different ages and stages. This commitment to establishing and implementing safe and sustainable training practices is a vital step in a wider focus on wellbeing.

In addition, we’ve commissioned an expert advisor to investigate what a suitable structure for a national Medical Health Advisory Panel or something similar would look like for gymnastics in this country. We hope to have this work completed by the end of this year.

Athlete Voice
Gymnastics NZ is developing ways to place the views of our athletes at the centre of what we do. Recently we hosted Olympian, former Commonwealth Games boxer and athlete voice expert Alexis Pritchard and our five technical committee athlete representatives for a workshop to discuss ways of better incorporating athletes’ views into our discussions and decision-making processes. We have identified that we need to bring athlete perspectives from recreational gymnastics and parkour into the mix as this work continues.

Participant harm
We recently held a series of online hui for people who have been harmed in some way by their participation in gymnastics, updating them on progress we are making to ensure a safe, rewarding environment for all gymnasts and gymnastics community members in Aotearoa. You can view a summary of the questions raised in this session here.
I would again like to thank those people who have shared their experiences as part of the Independent Review process and ongoing efforts to improve our sport.

I acknowledge that it has taken a long time to get to this point. The wheels of progress often move slower than many of us would like. However, intent and words are now becoming actions. We started with over 50 recommendations, which have been condensed into 19 actions. These actions reflect the work that is both most vital and most impactful as we look to ensure that participating in gymnastics is a positive experience for all Kiwis today, tomorrow and for generations to come.
You can track the progress of this work here.

A review into Gymnastics NZ’s complaints processes has been completed and we are now looking at how we implement its findings.
The principles established by the review are a need for:

  • better communications
  • timely resolutions
  • an ability to mediate rather than going to straight to a legal process

We’re aiming to confirm the details of a much more user-friendly process shortly. A key consideration is that our process needs to align with the stand-alone Sports and Recreation Integrity body that is being created by the Government and will be in place later this year. We don’t want to be re-designing the process, so we are working closely with the Integrity Transition Agency led by football and cricket dual international Rebecca Rolls to make sure we get it right first time. We recently gave a submission to the select committee for the Integrity Sport and Recreation Bill, alongside Steering Committee Chair Sally McKechnie and Oliva Jöbsis which can be viewed here.

Our key requests were:

  • an independent complaints process
  • a child-friendly approach
  • a focus on mental health, including a hardship fund for people with long-term impacts from negative experiences in sport 

Our goal is to help equip our coaches to ensure they deliver positive experiences for our gymnasts. We’ve taken some important steps to support coaches, improve the coaching experience for athletes, and provide meaningful safeguards for both athletes and coaches. As many of you know, Gymnastics NZ has appointed Amy Nield as our national Coach Development Manager, and she continues to do great work in this space.

We are in the process of developing a coach development framework for adult and youth coaches – and the building blocks have already been put in place with last year’s Coach Connect conferences and the planned Youth Coach Connect conferences. The research that will underpin this framework is published on our website and can be viewed here.

On the safeguarding front, we have updated our internal coaching database system to ensure that it can flag any formal disciplinary issues. This system covers all members, including coaches and officials. It is now much harder for people to switch clubs or move to a different region to avoid a disciplinary issue.

Environment and culture
A consistent theme with the complaints Gymnastics NZ receives is that members don’t feel they can raise issues with their clubs due to a fear of negative consequences. So, we are having conversations with clubs about how people can more confidently come forward and raise issues in good faith.

We have already seen good progress in clubs and members being able to resolve issues through mediation when these issues might previously have escalated into a formal complaint.

The work we are doing to drive positive cultural change in the sport more broadly will be beneficial in this area.

On a final note, I would like to again the gymnastics community for working together with us to make gymnastic experiences positive and safe for all kiwis. There is still a lot of work to be done – but hopefully you can see that we are now moving forward – and moving in a positive direction.

Ngā mihi nui | Kind regards
Andrea Nelson
Tumu Whakarae o Takaporepore Aotearoa – Chief Executive Officer