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Factors influencing sport participation

There are hundreds of factors identified in the literature that can influence sports participation or non-participation, and the strength of each factor will vary between individuals and across each person's life-course.

For sports organisations understanding the potential barriers and facilitators to participation in their specific context can make a significant difference in maintaining and growing the number of players, volunteers, and fans who engage and participate regularly. This has flow on effects for the long-term sustainability of individual sports, organisations, and the sector more broadly.

Physical health and fitness is the strongest motivator for Australians 15+ to participate in sport and physical activity. 36

Facilitators and barriers

Factors that consistently appear in the literature as supportive of sports participation include:
  • parental and family support
  • peer interaction
  • positive environment
  • venue accessibility
Factors that consistently appear as negative or contributing to non-participation or dropout include:
  • excessive travel
  • the expense of training and competition
  • inconvenient training and competition times
  • low levels of physical literacy (i.e. perceptions of competence)
  • environments that are ‘too competitive’

Some research is also emerging that suggests that both early sport specialisation (i.e. playing only one sport intensely or at a high level at a young age) and non-participation in sport (i.e. not playing at all) may lead to lower long term participation in sport and physical activity. Experts recommend that children and young people participate in a variety of activities in order to maximise life-long enjoyment and engagement in sport and physical activity.

Factors that impact

Cost (direct financial and time)

The 'cost' of sport can include time, investment, travel, opportunity and service.

Competence (physical literacy)

Feeling competent is extremely important to maintaining sports participation.

Cultural background

Cultural background and identity (e.g. language spoken, country of birth, religion) can impact engagement in sport.


Community size and infrastructure can impact upon sport participation.


Socio-economic status can impact how people engage with sport (e.g. types of activities participated in, frequency of participation).

Role models

Role models and programs encourage preferred behaviours, participation, leadership, and inclusion among diverse groups.

Organisational capacity

On-going participation in sport is usually contingent upon satisfaction with the overall experience provided.


Coaches significantly influence athletes and help maintain sport participation at all ages.

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  3. Sport participation among lower income ACT households: Full report, Orima Research for ACT Government, (2021).
  4. The Cost of Participation in Sport, Rochelle Eime, Melanie Charity, Jack Harvey, et al., PASI Global, (August 2023).
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  13. In the Game: Enabling Muslim girls to play sport and be active, Change the Game, (June 2023).
  14. Volunteers and Coaches Training Manual, WA Disabled Sports Association, (2023).
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  18. Cost-of-living pressures impacting sports clubs, families around Australia, Aaron Kelly, ABC Capricornia, (16 February 2024).
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  27. Reducing financial barriers through the implementation of voucher incentives to promote children’s participation in community sport in Australia, L. J. Reece, C. McInerney, K. Blazek, et al., BMC Public Health, Volume 20, Article number: 19, (2020).
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Last updated: 26 June 2024
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