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EVIDENCE BASE FOR SPORT

Children and youth in sport

The early years of a child’s life, as well as the transitions from adolescence to independent adulthood are crucial to establishing lifelong behaviours. 1

Playing sport during these years can provide lifelong benefits to physical, mental, social, and economic wellbeing. Children and youth who grow up playing sport are more likely to remain active as adults and to have improved resilience and social connectedness. 1, 2

In line with the AusPlay survey and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reports we have defined children as those aged 0-14, and youth as those aged 15-24.3, 4, 5 These ages cover important milestones, up to and including university studies and early employment when sport participation can drop significantly. There will be some cross-over between groups depending on research and data available.

In June 2022 Australia’s estimated resident population was 26,013,061 people, 18% (4,763,927) were aged 0-14 years, and 12% (3,171,511) were aged 15-24 years. 6

PARTICIPATION - 2022



Children aged 0-14

An estimated 2,347,000 (47%) of children aged 0-14 participated in organised outside-of-school hours sport-related activity at least once a week. 7
An estimated 1,217,000 (47%) of boys and 1,129,000 (46%) of girls aged 0-14 participated in organised outside-of-school hours sport-related activity at least once a week. 7

Youth aged 15-24

An estimated 1,831,000 (54%) of individuals aged 15-24 participated in a sport-related activity at least once a week. 7
An estimated 1,076,000 (62%) of males and 755,000 (46%) of females aged 15-24 participated in a sport-related activity at least once a week. 7
An estimated 206,000 (22%) of individuals aged 15-17 and 358,000 (15%) of those aged 18-24, were involved in a non-playing role at least once in 2022. 8
Estimated Sport-related participation by age group 7

Estimated State/Territory participation 7

Children (0-14) - organised outside-of-school hours sport-related activity at least once a week
Youth (15-24) - sport-related activity at least once a week

Children 0-14 Youth 15-24
Australian Capital Territory 51,000 (58%) 34,000 (54%)
New South Wales 778,000 (49%) 600,000 (56%)
Northern Territory* 13,000 (23%) 13,000 (53%)
Queensland 514,000 (50%) 365,000 (52%)
South Australia 144,000 (46%) 116,000 (54%)
Tasmania 35,000 (36%) 34,000 (54%)
Victoria 576,000 (44%) 507,000 (56%)
Western Australia 236,000 (44%) 162,000 (49%)


*estimate has a relative margin of error between 50% and 100% and should be used with caution’ for Northern Territory

An estimated 106,000 (40% of) Australian youth [aged 18-24 years] with a disability participated in a sport-related activity at least once a week. 7
An estimated 50,000 (42% of) First Nations' youth [aged 18-24 years] participated in a sport-related activity at least once a week. 7
An estimated 279,000 (46% of) Australian youth [aged 18-24 years] who speak a language other than English (LOTE) at home participated in a sport-related activity at least once a week. 7

Most popular sport-related activities with estimated participants 9

Children (0-14) - organised outside-of-school hours sport-related activity
Youth (15-24) - sport-related activity

Children aged 0-8
Swimming - 1,324,000
Gymnastics - 431,000
Football/Soccer - 394,000
Australian Football - 173,000
Basketball - 128,000
Running/Athletics - 116,000
Tennis - 112,000
Netball - 82,000
Karate - 80,000
DanceSport - 65,000
Children aged 9-14
Swimming - 486,000
Football/Soccer - 354,000
Basketball - 351,000
Australian Football - 263,000
Netball - 223,000
Cricket - 168,000
Tennis - 164,000
Gymnastics - 163,000
Running/Athletics - 140,000
Rugby League - 108,000
Youth aged 15-17
Basketball - 222,000
Running/Athletics - 217,000
Football/Soccer - 212,000
Swimming - 158,000
Netball - 132,000
Australian Football - 125,000
Volleyball - 113,000
Rugby League - 84,000
Cycling - 68,000
Touch Football - 57,000
Youth aged 18-24
Running/Athletics - 531,000
Swimming - 333,000
Football/Soccer - 302,000
Basketball - 297,000
Netball - 205,000
Cycling - 178,000
Tennis - 147,000
Australian Football - 147,000
Cricket - 103,000
Volleyball - 103,000
  1. Adolescent participation in sports and adult physical activity, Tuija Tammelin, Simo Näyhä, Andrew Hills, et al., American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 24(1), pp.22-28, (2003) quoted in Intergenerational Review of Australian Sport, BCG Consulting for the Australian Sports Commission, (2017).
  2. The value and benefits of sport, Clearinghouse for Sport, (accessed 14 September 2023).
  3. AusPlay methodology, Australian Sports Commission, (accessed 20 September 2023).
  4. Health of Children, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, (last updated 11 September 2023).
  5. Australia’s Youth, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, (last updated 25 June 2021).
  6. National, state and territory population: March 2023, Australian Bureau of Statistics (14 September 2023).
  7. AusPlay Data Portal: Sport-related participation – frequency of participation, Australian Sports Commission, (accessed 14 September 2023).
  8. AusPlay Data Portal: Non-playing roles, Australian Sports Commission, (accessed 14 September 2023).
  9. AusPlay Data Portal: Participation by activity, Australian Sports Commission, (accessed 14 September 2023).

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Last updated: 06 October 2023
Content disclaimer: See Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer

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