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Sport Participation in Australia

Participation statistics and trends

Every sport has unique characteristics that appeal to different interests, abilities, and expectations. There is also a complex mixture of social and economic factors influencing patterns of behaviour and sport participation choices. The decision to participate in one sport or activity over another, or to participate at all, is usually the result of many factors.

Statistics and market research provide snapshots of the scope and reach of the sport sector within different segments of Australian society. This can help identify the underlying factors that either contribute to, or restrict, sports participation as a function of age, gender, socio-economic status, cultural influences, etc..

The AusPlay Survey (AusPlay) is a large scale national population tracking survey funded and led by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) that tracks Australian sport and physical activity participation behaviours to help inform investment, policy and sport delivery.

Key insights from recent survey results (2020)

Participation in sport and/or physical activity
  • 83.3% of women (over 15 years) participate at least 1x per week and 67.1% 3x per week.
  • 79.4% of men (over 15 years) participate at least 1x per week and 60.2% 3x per week.
  • 48% of children (under the age of 15) participated in some form of organised sport or physical activity outside of school hours at least 1x per week and 17.1% three times or more per week.
Participation in sport-related activities
  • 54% of women who participate do at least some sport related activities, 35.6% participate only in non-sport related activities.
  • 69.6% of participating men do at least some sport related activities, 19.5% participate only in non-sport related activities.
  • 68.1% of participating children do at least some sport related activities, only 3.4% participate in only non-sport related activities.
  • Participation rates for boys and girls were similar; however, girls are more likely to participate in non-sport related physical activity than boys; and boys were more likely to participate in sport-related physical activity and club sports in all age groups.
Trends in participation across the life-course
  • Participation for men is highest among 15-17 year olds and tends to decline in successive adult age groups. For women participation remains reasonably consistent.
  • Australian adults tend to play sports for longer duration than non-sport related physical activities; however they participate in non-sport related physical activities more frequently.
Non-playing roles
  • 15.7% of people (over the age of 15) participate in a non-playing role in sport (17.2% of men; 14.2% of women).
  • The most common roles for men and women are: coach/instructor/trainer; official; and, administrator/committee member.
Top activities - adults
  • Walking (recreational); Fitness/gym; Athletics (includes jogging and running); Swimming; Cycling; Bush walking; Yoga; Football/soccer; Golf; Tennis; Basketball; Pilates; Surfing; Netball; Australian football.
Top activities - children
  • Swimming; Football/soccer; Gymnastics; Dancing (recreational); Basketball; Australian football;  Netball; Tennis; Athletics (includes jogging and running); Cricket.
Barriers - adults
  1. Not enough time/too many other commitments
  2. Poor health or injury
  3. Increasing age/too old
  4. Don't like sport or physical activity
  5. Too lazy
Barriers - children

Wrong age (too old/young) for available activities is the primary barrier for children up to 8 years.

For children 9-14 years the main barriers are:

  1. Don’t like sport/PA
  2. Not enough time/too many other commitments
  3. Can't afford it/transport
Motivators - men
  1. Health/fitness
  2. Fun/enjoyment
  3. Social reasons
  4. Psychological/mental health benefits
  5. To be outdoors/enjoy nature
  6. To lose/manage body weight
  7. Active transport
  8. Walk the dog
  9. Hobby
  10. Performance/competition
Motivators - women
  1. Health/fitness
  2. Fun/enjoyment
  3. Psychological/mental health benefits
  4. Social reasons
  5. To be outdoors/enjoy nature
  6. To lose/manage body weight
  7. Walk the dog
  8. Active transport
  9. Hobby
  10. Performance/competition

Access to resources
Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.

Additional resources

The AusPlay Survey (AusPlay) is a large scale national population tracking survey funded and led by Sport Australia that tracks Australian sport and physical activity participation behaviours to help inform investment, policy and sport delivery. New data is released twice a year in April and October. Some key reports published based on the AusPlay data include:

  • Australian Cycling Participation: results of the 2019 National Cycling Participation Survey, Austroads, (September 2019). The 2019 National Cycling Participation Survey shows that the number of Australians who regularly ride a bike is declining. Only 13.8% of people surveyed said they rode a bike in the past week, down from 15.5% in 2017. It is down almost 5% from when the biennial survey was first done in 2011, when 18.2% of people said they rode a bike in the past week.
  • Australian Health Survey: Physical Activity, 2011-12, Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2013). Physical activity has been identified as an important contributor to maintaining good overall health and low levels of activity are identified as a risk factor for a range of health conditions. In the 2011-12 survey, toddlers and pre-schoolers (aged 2–4 years) spent an average of around 6 hours per day engaged in physical activity. They also spent almost one and a half hours in the sedentary activities, such as watching TV or playing electronic games. On average, children and young people aged 5–17 years spent one and a half hours per day on physical activity and over two hours a day engaged in screen-based activity. Physical activity decreased and screen-based sedentary time increased with age. Adults spent an average of just over 30 minutes per day doing physical activity, only 43% of adults actually met the ‘sufficiently active’ threshold of the national activity guidelines. Adults aged 18–24 years were the most active and activity tended to decline with age.
  • Children’s Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, Australia, Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2013). In the 12 months prior to the survey, its estimated that 60% of all children aged 5 to 14-years participated in at least one organised sport activity outside of school hours. The highest participation rate, 66%, was among the 9-11 age-group and the lowest participation rate, 56%, was among children aged 5-8 years. On average, children who participated spent five hours per fortnight playing and/or training in organised sport outside of school hours. Overall, participation in organised sport was higher among boys (67%) than girls (54%); Participation rate varied among the states and territories, with the Australian Capital Territory the highest (73%) and the Northern Territory the lowest (54%); Children’s participation was higher when both parents were born in Australia, compared to both parents born in other countries; Children born in Australia had a participation rate of 65%, compared to 40% for children born in a non-English speaking country; Among girls the most popular sports were netball, swimming, gymnastics, football (soccer) and basketball. Among boys the most popular sports were football (soccer), swimming, Australian football, basketball and cricket.
  • Children's participation in organised sport - 2000, 2003, 2006, Australian Bureau of Statistics prepared for the Standing Committee on Recreation and Sport, (October 2007). This paper examines changes in the patterns of participation of children aged 5-14 years in sport and other recreational activities undertaken outside of school hours. Data is presented from the Survey of Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities conducted in 2000, 2003 and 2006. Information includes the participation rates of children including hours and frequency of participation, by sex and age group.
  • Children's Participation in Sport and Leisure Time Activities, 2006, Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2006). This paper presents the findings of a statistical analysis of the characteristics of children and their participation in organised sport. The analysis takes into account participation in other activities undertaken by children out of school together with a range of social and demographic characteristics.
  • Exercise, Recreation and Sport Survey (2001-2010). ERASS was a joint initiative of the Australian Sports Commission and State and Territory Departments of Sport and Recreation, conducted on an annual basis between 2001 and 2010. The survey captured information on the frequency, duration, nature and type of activities that persons aged 15 years and older participated in. Data was broken down by age-group and sex within each jurisdiction. Participation was defined as active engagement and does not include support functions (e.g. coaching, officiating, volunteering) or being a spectator. Recreational activities did not include those activities related to household chores and more sedentary forms of recreation (e.g. screen time and non-physical games).
  • Motivators and constraints to participation in sports and physical recreation, Australian Bureau of Statistics prepared for the Standing Committee on Research and Sport Research Group, (December 2007). This report presents information on constraints and motives to participation in sports and physical recreation collected in the 2005-06 Multi-Purpose Household Survey (MPHS). This survey included questions about participation in organised and non-organised sports and physical recreation, the types of sport and activities, the frequency of participation and constraints and motives to participation. When asked about the reasons for participating or not participating in sport or physical recreation, individuals provided some common responses. Constraints broadly included being too busy or lack of time; age or health related reasons; and not interested. Motives broadly included health reasons and enjoyment.
  • Queensland Sport, Exercise and Recreation Survey Adults (QSERSA): Research Report, Hinds A, Gordon J and Crouch L, Queensland Government, Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing, (25 May 2016). The aim of the QSERSA survey is to collect robust data from a Queensland regional level to support the Government’s policy, program development, and planning needs for sport and recreation participation. This is the first wave of a planned annual survey and as such, provides baseline data for comparison with future waves of the survey. The degree to which Queenslanders participate in sports, exercise and recreation tends to vary based on age and associated health factors; socioeconomic factors; time availability; and to a lesser extent, gender. Baseline statistics in this report include:
    • Three-quarters (75%) of Queenslanders could be described as participants, that is, they have participated in physical activities for sports, exercise or recreation during the 12 months prior to the survey; and one-quarter (25%) were non-participants in physical activity over the past 12 months.
    • Almost two-thirds (63%) of all Queensland adults surveyed could be described as ‘high frequency' participants; that is, they participate in physical activity once a week, or more often. This includes twenty-one per cent who report they undertake physical activity at least once a day.
    • 12% of all Queensland adults surveyed could be described as ‘medium frequency’ participants; that is, they participate in physical activity once a fortnight or less often, but at least once every 6 months.
    • Just 1% of all Queensland adults surveyed could be described as ‘low frequency’ participants; that is, they participate in physical activity at least once a year, or know that they have participated over the past 12 months but can’t recall how often.
  • Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation, Australia, 2013-14, Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2015). This report provides details about persons aged 15-years and over who participated in a sport or physical recreational activity at least once during the 12 months prior to interview. Among the Australian population, aged 15 years and over, an estimated 60% (11.1 million people) reported that they had participated in sport and physical recreation at least once during the 12 months prior to the survey. This is down from 65% in the 2011-12 survey. Adult participation generally decreased with age, peaking during the 15–17 age-group at 74% and declining to 47% in the 65 years and older group. Walking for exercise continued to be the most popular physical recreational activity; women were more likely to walk for exercise than men. The overall participation rate in organised sport, as a player or in a non-playing role (such as a coach or official) was 28% of all adults. There were variations by age-group and gender, with the 15-24 year age-group having the highest participation and the 65 years and over the lowest, at 44% and 17% respectively. The report also provides a more detailed breakdown of statistics for ‘organised’ and ‘non-organised’ sport and physical recreation activities.
  • Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation, Australia, 2011-12, Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2012). This report presents data about the characteristics of people aged 15 years and over who participated in sport and physical recreation activities as players, competitors and in other physically active roles. Data is broken down by gender, age-group, frequency of participation, and type of activity.
  • Perspectives on Sport, Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2012). The ‘Perspectives on Sport’ series contains information on topics of interest relating to sport and physical recreation using data sourced from a range of ABS surveys. Data suggests that children who spend less time participating in physical activity also spend more time participating in screen-based activities; and children who participated in organised sport had (on average) 2 hours less screen-time per week. Cumulative list of articles in this series.
  • Sports and Physical Recreation: a statistical overview, Australia, 2012, Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2012). This report presents an overview of the sport and physical recreation sector. It contains information about the number of people who play sport; the most popular sports played; the number of people attending sporting events; the amount people spend on sport and physical recreation; the economic activity of businesses, clubs and associations involved in providing sport and physical recreation goods and services; the people who work in sport and physical recreation occupations or industries; and the support provided by volunteers. Almost two thirds (65%) of Australian adults, and 60% of children age 5-14 years, participated in physical activities for recreation, exercise, or sport at some time during the 12 months prior to the survey. Of these, just over one-quarter (27%) participated in organised sport.
  • Sport participation rates: aggregation of 12 sports, Victoria 2017, report prepared for Sport and Recreation Victoria and VicHealth through the Sport Participation Research Program, (May 2019). This report provides the results of an analysis of participation during 2017 in Victorian club-based sport. It combines data from Victorian State Sporting Associations (SSAs) for 12 major sports: Australian Football League, Basketball, Bowls, Cricket, Football (Soccer), Golf, Gymnastics, Hockey, Netball, Sailing, Swimming, and Tennis. Some key findings were:
    • The integration of data from all 12 included sports shows that overall participation peaked for ages 10-14 years, representing a participation rate of 67.5%. Approximately one quarter of 4 year olds (22.1%) were participants. After the peak at 10-14 years the participation rate dropped by more than half for the next age group 15-19 years, representing a participation rate of 32.3%. There was another large decline (to 15.1%) in the next age group 20-24 and then a steady progressive decline until a small rebound at ages 65-79 years. From ages 30-85+ fewer than 10% of Victorians participated in these sports.
    • Participation rates were higher for males than females in all age groups. Overall, the male participation rate (20.3%) was approximately double that of the female (10.6%).
    • For all ages, except 4 year olds, participation rates were higher in regional areas than metropolitan areas.
    • Whilst there were substantial differences in participation rates for different sports among young children and adolescents, by age 25-29 participation rates were below 4% for all sports
  • Victorian participation in organised sport, Research summary, VicHealth, (last updated: 6 April 2021). This summary outlines key findings and insights from the fifth year of VicHealth and Sport and Recreation Victoria’s joint research into organised community sport participation in Victoria across 12 popular sports including Australian football, basketball, bowls*, cricket, football (soccer), golf*, gymnastics, hockey, netball, sailing, swimming and tennis. It illustrates participation across age, sex and location in 2018 and compares this with participation in previous years (2015-2018). Some key findings included:
    • Participation in sport increased by more than 119,000 participants (0.8% increase in the participation rate).
    • The participation increase was over twice as high for females (1.1% increase) than males (0.5% increase).
    • The largest growth in participation rates 2015–2019 were within the 4 year old age group (4%) followed by the 15–19 year age group (3%).
    • For females, the largest growth was for 4 year olds (7%), followed by 5–9 year olds (5%), and 10–14 year olds (4%).
    • For males, the largest growth was for 15–19 year olds (3%), followed by 35–39 year olds (2%), and 25–29 year olds (1%).
    • There has been increased participation for females across all ages, and with high growth in participation rates for those aged 4–19 years.
  • Sport 2030, Department of Health, Commonwealth of Australia, (2018). The Australian Government has a clear and bold vision for sport in Australia — to ensure we are the world’s most active and healthy nation, known for our integrity and sporting success. Sport 2030 has four key priority areas which will, when fully implemented, create a platform for sporting success through to 2030 and beyond. The priorities are:
    • Build a more active Australia — More Australians, more active, more often.
    • Achieving sporting excellence — National pride, inspiration and motivation through international sporting success.
    • Safeguarding the integrity of sport — A fair, safe and strong sport sector free from corruption.
    • Strengthening Australia’s sport industry — A thriving Australian sport and recreation industry.
  • Active Lives, Department for Health and Ageing, Government of South Australia, prepared for the Office of Recreation, Sport and Racing, (2019). The majority of the questions in this survey have been adapted from the ‘Active Lives’ survey published by Sport England. Additional questions regarding individual’s health and wellbeing, community connectedness and individual development were included in the survey to investigate their relationship with physical activity. In regards to volunteering the survey aimed to determine the rates of volunteering to support sport and physical activity and the link between volunteering in sport and wellbeing and social outcomes.
  • Active People Survey. Sport England has been tracking the participation patterns and behaviours of the population since 2005/06. The findings have become a valuable resource for the sports sector and results are updated and released twice each year. General trends shown in the serial data from the Survey include: Higher family income has a significant positive influence on sports participation rate; Proximity to coastline and inland waterways (within 10km) increased participation for open-space and aquatic activities; Participation in some sports (golf for example) is more sensitive to changes in household economic circumstances; Higher population density produced greater participation in organised sports. Lower population density produced greater participation in individual (particularly outdoor) sports; People who continue into higher education have higher participation rates in sport (probably linked to higher family income); People who participate in sport also attended three or more cultural events within the previous year; There is a positive impact that ethnic density appears to have upon participation rate in sport. Communities having a sufficiently large ethnic population tended to have better participation rates than those same ethnic groups living in ‘less dense’ populations; Access to competitive activities (events, tournaments, leagues) tended to increase participation.
  • The challenge of growing youth participation in sport, Sport England, (2014). This report summarises the findings of sport and participation research.
  • Children and Sport: full report , Tim Olds, Jim Dollman, Kate Ridley, et.al., University of South Australia prepared for the Australian Sports Commission, (2004). Along with other evidence outlined in this document, the cluster analysis exercise clearly demonstrates that different activity patterns exist within groups (or clusters) and each activity pattern's relationship with variables such as PAL and BMI are quite different. We have also supported the notion that activity and inactivity may not always act as competitors for time and are in fact different constructs, with some children able to spend large amounts of time in both activity and inactivity. This information can help us tailor physical activity interventions as we need to not only understand but utilise the unique activity patterns of each group to our advantage. This report provides quite a comprehensive snapshot of the role of sport and physical activity in the lives of children, both from an objective use-of-time perspective and from subjective (cognitive and affective) perspectives. The authors emphasise the need for genuine evidence-based research on intervention strategies, adequately funded, with large sample sizes, and using well-designed control groups and the need to avoid ‘nostalgic’ solutions based on a ‘back to the sixties’ mindset. No intervention is going to reverse the massive socio-demographic changes which are driving the current crisis. We need to think how new sports structures are going to operate in a new society.
  • The Future of Australian Sport: megatrends shaping the sports sector over coming decades, Hajkowicz S, Cook H, Wilhelmseder L and Boughen N, Consultancy Report for the Australian Sports Commission by the CSIRO, (April 2013). The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has collaborated with the Australian Sports Commission to identify six megatrends likely to shape the Australian sports sector over the next 30 years. A megatrend represents an important pattern of social, economic or environmental change. Megatrends occur at the intersection of multiple trends and hold potential implications for policy and investment choices being made by community groups, industry and government.
  • Growing up in Australia: the longitudinal study of Australian children: annual statistical reports, Australian Institute of Family Studies (2010-). Australia’s first nationally representative longitudinal study of child development. The purpose of the study is to provide quality data that contributes to gaining a comprehensive understanding of children’s development within Australia’s contemporary social, economic and cultural environment. Each annual report may not include direct physical activity or sedentary behaviour analysis but the 2012 and 2015 reports do include relevant information. Chapter 9 of the 2012 report provides data to answer the question, “How engaged are children in organised sport and other physical activity during their late primary school years?” Chapter 5 of the 2015 report discusses "Australian children's screen time and participation in extracurricular activities".
  • Insights to engage Victorians in physical activity at different life stages, VicHealth , (June 2017). This research involved online surveys of 3145 Victorians aged 12 and over across Victoria, as well as focus groups with Victorian adults aged 18 and over. It resulted in five distinct ‘life stages’ for which there are common themes and unique attributes that influence physical activity behaviour. Within each life stage, sub-groups were identified based on their physical activity levels and their likelihood to respond to programs and communications encouraging them to be more active. Some enablers and barriers to physical activity are common to all life stages. But to increase the success of strategies to increase activity, consider the sub-groups and what influences their attitudes and motivations, and the level of personal or external support available. Strategies must also consider the awareness and availability of physical activity options to the sub-group and what and how to communicate with them.
  • Market Segmentation Studies, Australian Sports Commission and GfK Moon. This research is intended to assist sporting organisations to better understand what factors are driving participation in sport and other types of physical activities. Australians are becoming increasingly time-poor and sport, recreation, and leisure activity choices must compete for an individual’s and family’s time and financial resources. Market segmentation involves dividing a market into groups of consumers with similar needs, attitudes and behaviours. This research developed several market segmentation models:
  • ParticipACTION Pulse Report, MEC/Participaction, (April 2018). This report explores Canadians’ thoughts, feelings, and motivations as they relate to physical activity and informs what shifts are needed in order to make physical activity a vital part of everyday life in Canada. It highlights that despite Canadians apparently valuing and enjoying physical activity; knowing they’re not physically active enough; and thinking that this is something that they could change, they are not actually changing their behaviours. The report also suggests that although the majority of Canadians think that individuals have primary responsibility for being sufficiently active they also need help, and organisations and the government should be working towards this.
  • Participant development in sport: An academic review, Bailey R, Collins D, Ford P, et.al., Sports Coach UK and Sport Northern Ireland, (2010). This review looked at available evidence and challenged many common beliefs about sports participation. The review concluded that: Physical talent alone is only a moderate predictor of long-term participation; Prolonged engagement in sport and physical activity is underpinned by an array of factors that include social, physical, technical, and psychological determinants; Fundamental movement skills are an important prerequisite of participation, since they underpin the actual and perceived competence, which acts as a foundation for lifelong participation, as well as the achievement of excellence.
  • Queensland Sport, Exercise and Recreation Survey, Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport, (accessed 26 February 2021). The Queensland, Sport, Exercise, and Recreation Surveys provide regular data about the physical activity of Queensland children and adults.
    • Queensland Sport, Exercise and Recreation survey of Children - 2019. Some of the key insights of QSERSC:
      • 84.2% of Queensland children participated in some form of daily physical activity.
      • Gender plays a part in physical activity preferences. Boys participate more frequently in active transport, cycling and scootering, sport, and general exercise and fitness compared to girls. Girls participate more frequently in walking and recreational activities compared to boys.
      • Older age groups, 12–14 year olds and 15–17 year olds, participate less frequently in physical activity than the younger groups, 5–8 years old and 9–11 years old.
      • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children and children with disability participated most frequently in active play, chores or work involving physical activity, and cycling and scootering.
      • The top four organised sports were soccer, netball, basketball and rugby league.
      • The main barriers to children’s participation were parent related including include lack of time (30.7 per cent), work commitments (27.5 per cent) and expense/costs (26.8 per cent)
      • Screen time may have an impact on children’s physical activity levels with children in the low physical activity segment spending significantly more time on screens for schoolwork, leisure, entertainment and other reasons.
    • Queensland, Sport, Exercise, and Recreation Survey (QSERSA) for Adults 2018. Key findings:
      • 75% of Queenslanders could be described as participants in physical activities for sports, exercise or recreation during the last 12 months. The remaining 25% identify as non-participants.
      • 63% are high frequency participants (participation is once a week or more often), a further 11% are medium frequency participants (participation is at least once a fortnight to at least once every 6 months), while just 1% are low frequency participants (participation at least once a year).
      • These participation rates have remained stable since 2015 (no statistically significant changes since the original benchmark survey), with each group varying no more than 2 percentage points over the three years of this study.
  • Sport Participation and Play: how to get more Australians moving, Hans Westerbeek, Rochelle Eime, Stuart Biddle, et.al., Mitchell Institute Victoria University, (2019). This paper responds to, and proposes policy objectives and strategies to support effective implementation of, the aims of Sport 2030, Australia’s first national sports plan, which was released in mid-2018 and is described as “a comprehensive plan to reshape the face of Australian sport and build a healthier, more physically active nation” [1]. Sport 2030 recognises that participation in ‘sport for all’ is a significant challenge that is important to the health of the nation as well as to pathways to elite sport.
  • Sports and Health in America, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (2015). In the United States of America there is a sharp decline in sports participation among adults as they age. This report looks at age, gender and income in relation to adult sport participation.
  • Sport and Recreation in the lives of 15 to 18 year-old girls, Graham S, Sport New Zealand (2014). This report draws upon the results of the '2011 New Zealand Young People’s Survey'. It provides information on how the activity patterns of older girls may differ from younger girls, as well as highlighting differences to the activity patterns of boys. Compared with older boys, older girls were more likely to want to try or do a variety of activities that were unstructured; older girls were more likely to engage in sports while ‘mucking around’. For almost all sports or activities, the majority of girls said that they did them occasionally rather than regularly; the exception being netball. Older girls were more likely than younger girls, and older boys, to have not done any sport activities with a club. For older girls, the top four things (based on a ‘yes’ response) that they said would encourage them to play sport more often than they do now are: (1) if they could play friendly games where it doesn’t matter who wins, (2) if they were more competent in their sports skills, (3) if they could try different sports before they decided what to play, and (4) if winter and summer seasons didn’t overlap.
  • Sport participation in Victoria and the contribution of sport to physical activity levels Eime R, Harvey J, Charity M, and Casey M, report prepared for Sport and Recreation Victoria by Sport and Recreation Spatial (2014). This report integrates the results of four separate research studies, three based on annual Victorian player registration data for five popular sports (Australian Rules Football, Basketball, Cricket, Hockey and Netball) for the period 2010-2012, and the fourth based on national data from the Exercise, Recreation and Sport Survey 2010 (ERASS) commissioned by the Australian Sports Commission. This report provide a picture of: (1) sport participation rates; (2) age profiles of sport participants; (3) longitudinal sport participation patterns; and (4) the contribution of sport to physical activity levels.
  • Sport Participation Patterns, Sport and Recreation Spatial, (2014). This report provides a breakdown of participation patterns, including drop-out, across the lifespan. The report focuses on the 4 to 14 year segment, which has the highest rate of participation. Membership data for Victoria’s sports clubs was tracked over a three year period. Key findings were: (1) across most age-groups 20-30% of members played continuously for the three years; (2) the peak age range for commencement of participation was 5-9 years, and beyond the age of 9 the number of new members diminished with increasing age, and; (3) recruitment and retention rates were different for males and females.
  • Teens and sport: what the research shows, VicHealth, (2018). Research from VicHealth indicates that 92% of Victorian teenages (12-17 years old) do not meet the Australian physical activity guidelines (60 minutes of physical activity every day). The research also identifies some of the key barriers and motivators for sports participation in this age group. It suggests that sport can become too stressful and not fun during adolescence and, therefore, they are more likely to drop out. Recommends providing flexibility to meet different needs, which may include more social and less competitive options for re-engaging some teens. Teens talk sport, VicHealth/YouTube, (7 February 2018).
  • The Top 20 sports played by Aussies young and old(er), Roy Morgan Research, Article number 6123, (19 March 2015). Swimming remains one of the most common sporting/recreational activities in Australia, with almost half of all children (48.8%) and 10.1% of adults regularly taking the plunge. Children are around five times more likely to regularly participate in swimming or cycling, the overall statistics for these two activities remains strong. Among adults, walking is clearly the number one recreational activity, with 45.3% regularly walking for exercise. Also among adults, going to the gym/weight training (13.0%) is gaining popularity, while jogging (9.9%) is more popular than cycling and yoga (4.0% each). Ten of the 20 most popular sports and physical activities for children, age 6 to 13 years, are team sports: soccer is the clear favourite, followed by basketball, cricket, netball, Australian football, rugby league, softball, volleyball, baseball and hockey.

Sport specific reports

  • Australian Cricket Census 2019/20, Cricket Australia, (2020). The 2019/20 Australian Cricket Census is the 19th annual audit of Australian cricket participation. The Census has become an important measure for Cricket, and assists understanding and monitoring successes, areas to develop and trends for the long‐term enhancement of Australian cricket. Among the key findings from the 2019/20 Census are:
    • A 3.8% increase in registered participation (709,957) following three years of decline. Registered participation includes registered programs, club cricket, indoor cricket, organised school competitions and non-club cricket competitions.
    • A 10% increase in the number of kids exposed to the game in the schoolyard, resulting in reaching more than 1 million school kids (10% growth YoY).
    • Female Participation grew to 76,400, an increase of 11.4% YoY.
    • Woolworths Cricket Blast participation increased to 59,300 participants, up 14% YoY.
    • Junior Club Cricket grew to 5,800 in teams for boys aged 12-and-under, an increase of 8% YoY.
    • Non-club cricket competitions grew to 54,000, up 29% YoY.
    • Club cricket experienced increases in Indigenous participation (up 12.6% YoY), multicultural participation (up 12% YoY) and participation among people living with a disability (up 10.3% YoY).
  • Boys and Pony Club, Pony Club Australia, (February 2021). PCA conducted a survey to find out what boys (Pony Club members and non-members) like and don't like about Pony Club, or any obstacles they face to join a Pony Club. The key issues influencing males joining and
    staying are attached.
  • Football Federation Australia 2019 National Participation Report, (2020). Highlights include:
    • 6% overall growth on 2018 Total Participation to 1,957,552
    • 11% growth in Women and Girls to 156,893
    • 5% growth in MiniRoos Club and Kick Off to 239,002
    • 35% growth in Social Football to 125,866
    • 36% growth in Futsal to 63,031
    • 7% increase in Registered Coaches to 38,715
    • 20% increase in Volunteers to 23,322
  • Golf Australia Participation Report 2019, (2020). For the first time in 21 years, Australian golf club membership has risen in the past year. The 2019 Golf Australia Participation Report has revealed a 0.05 per cent increase, the first of its kind since 1998. “Importantly for club health broadly, more than half (52 per cent) of those new members were aged under 50, a figure that compares well to the 28 per cent in that category overall.” Among other key positives, there has been a 33 per cent surge in the number of 9-hole competition rounds through “Play 9”, a combined initiative of Golf Australia and the R&A. There was also a 2.7 per cent increase in junior club membership, the first increase in junior membership for more than 10 years.
  • PFA Player Survey May 2020, Petanque Australia, (July 2020). In May 2020 the PFA conducted a Survey of Petanque players in Australia. Some of the key findings included:
    • The gender and age distributions roughly corresponded with the available data from the PFA Portal showing that Petanque is played by men and women in roughly equal numbers and is mostly played by the older demographic.
    • Respondents have been playing petanque for a considerable time correlating with the age demographic. They were mostly introduced to the game through friends although come and try days were also popular.
    • Thirty percent of players played social petanque only. The large majority play both social and competitive petanque (67%).
    • Players play for a number of reasons none of which are predominant.
  • Age profiles of sport participants, Eime R, Harvey J, Charity M, et.al., BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation, Volume 8, article 6, (12 March 2016). Membership growth of peak sporting organisations in Australia has improved in recent years. This study investigates age profiles of participation in seven selected sports (Australian football, basketball, cricket, hockey, lawn bowls, netball and tennis) in the state of Victoria, comparing trends between genders and across residential locations. World-wide evidence suggests that as age increases, participation in organised sport decreases. There are also many studies reporting gender differences in participation, usually indicating that overall (i.e. across multiple age groups) male participation is greater than female participation. However, variations in gender participation are noted in some age groups. The total number of registered participants in the seven sports during 2011 was 520,102. Data was broken down by age, gender and location (metropolitan or non-metropolitan). Results of the participation data by age indicated that 64% of all participants were age 20 years or younger, with the highest concentration in the 10-14 year age group (27.6%) and fewer than 10% of participants were over the age of 50 years. In terms of participation by gender and age; males age 4-7 years made up 13.8% of the sample, while their female age cohort contributed only 7.3%. The gender gap narrowed during young adulthood (age 18-29 years) with 20.4% of the sample being male and 17.5% female. Beyond the age of 50 gender differences were negligible. Higher proportions of metropolitan than non-metropolitan registered sport participants were engaged in the seven sports between the ages of 4–12 and ages 19–29; whereas higher proportions of non-metropolitan registered participants were engaged during adolescence (14 – 18 years) and throughout most of adulthood (30+ years). The strength of this study was its large sample size, incorporating seven sports representing the whole population of registered participants in the state of Victoria during 2011. However, the authors note that data does not include school-based programs or include participants engaged in a non-playing roles, such as coaches, officials, and volunteers.
  • Can't play, won't play: longitudinal changes in perceived barriers to participation in sports clubs across the child-adolescent transition, Basterfield L, Gardner L, Reilly J, et.al., BMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine, Volume 2(1), (2016). This longitudinal study of children and adolescents uses an ecological model of physical activity to assess changes in barriers to participation in sports clubs and to identify age-specific and weight-specific targets for intervention. Data on perceived barriers to sports participation were collected from a birth cohort, the Gateshead Millennium Study in northeast England (N>500) at ages 9 and 12 years. The open-ended question ‘Do you find it hard to take part in sports clubs for any reason?’ was asked and responses analysed using content analysis, and the social-ecological model of physical activity. The analysis showed that barriers at age 9 were predominantly of a physical or environmental nature. Young children relied upon parental involvement for transport, costs and permission to participate; also, there was a lack of suitable club infrastructure. At age 12 years the perceived barriers were predominantly classed as intrapersonal. Responses for not participating in sport included – it’s boring and my friends don’t go to sport. At both ages weight status was not perceived as a barrier to sport participation. The authors suggest that future interventions aiming to increase sport participation among children may not need to emphasise mediating overweight, but instead concentrate on the perception of fun and inclusion. Transport, cost, and access to quality sports programs remain as barriers to participation.
  • Changes from 1986 to 2006 in reasons for liking leisure-time physical activity among adolescents, Wold B., Littlecott, H., Tynjälä, J., et.al., Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports Volume 26(8), pp.951-959, (2016). The reasons why adolescents participate in physical activity may have changed over time, in accordance with attitudes and social norms. The aim of this study was to examine changes in self-reported reasons for leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) over a 20-year period among adolescents from Finland, Norway and Wales. In all three countries, 13-year-olds in 2006 tended to report higher importance on achievement and social reasons for sport participation than their counterparts in 1986. There were no significant changes in the cohort group's attitudes about the health benefits of sport participation. The authors suggest that interventions and educational efforts to encourage more sport activity could be improved by an increased focus on sport as a social activity.
  • Changes in sport and physical activity participation for adolescent females: a longitudinal study, Eime R, Harvey J, Sawyer N, et.al., BMC Public Health, Volume 16, article 533, (2016). Many studies report a decline in physical activity during adolescence, particularly for females. This study investigated longitudinal changes in physical activity (PA) and the specific modes and settings of PA, together with cross-sectional comparisons for two age cohorts of female adolescents in Victoria. The context of leisure-time PA has three aspects which have been termed mode, setting and type. Four modes of participation were distinguished as: team sport (e.g. netball), individual sport (e.g. tennis), organized but non-competitive PA (e.g. aerobics), and non-organised PA (e.g. walking). The three main settings for PA in adolescents are: school, club or leisure center, and neighborhood settings (e.g. home, street or park). The type of PA is defined by the many specific sports and forms of leisure-time PA such as tennis, swimming and walking, etc. This study found that overall levels of PA did not significantly decrease over adolescence, which is positive for physical health outcomes. However, there was a transition from structured sport to non-organised PA. Although PA level remained within the daily PA guidelines, participation in organised sport declined. The authors suggest that the decline in participation in organised sports may influence social and psychological health, and this needs to be further examined.
  • Childhood Sports Participation and Adolescent Sport Profile, François Gallant, Jennifer L. O’Loughlin, Jennifer Brunet, et.al., Pediatrics, Volume 140(6), (December 2017). This study demonstrates that children who specialize in a sport may increase the risk of sport non-participation in adolescence. It also highlights that children who do not participate in sports are unlikely to participate in adolescence. In line with current clinical recommendations and supported by these results, the authors recommend that to encourage long-term physical activity participation it is necessary to encourage children to participate in a variety of sports early on.
  • Global participation in sport and leisure-time physical activities: A systematic review and meta-analysis, R. Hulteen, J. Smith, P. Morgan, et.al., Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport , Volume 20(Supplement 1), p.e38, (January 2017). This systematic review is the first to determine the most popular physical activities performed by children, adolescents, and adults across six global regions (Africa, Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, Southeast Asia, Western Pacific). There were no clear participation trends in child and adolescent populations, instead, activity popularity varied according to geographic region. Yet, global participation rates for adults reflect a consistent pattern of participation in lifelong physical activities such as running and walking. Among all age groups and regions, soccer (i.e., football) was also highly popular. This suggests that on a global level building competence and confidence in walking, running and ball based activities may be a ‘best bet’ in terms of increasing physical activity levels.
  • Longitudinal patterns of physical activity in children aged 8 to 12 years: the LOOK study, Telford RM, Telford RD, Cunningham R, et.al., International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, (21 June 2013). Data on day-to-day physical activity patterns was collected on children in the Lifestyle of Our Kids (LOOK) study over a five year period. A weekly pattern of physical activity occurred in children as young as age 8 on a day-by-day basis; these patterns persisting through to age 12. Over the 5 years, boys were more active than girls and spent more time engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). There was a trend toward lower MVPA, light physical activity and a corresponding increase in sedentary time from age 11 to 12 years.
  • Play and work: An introduction to sport and organization, Vermeulen J, Koster M, Loos E, et.al., Culture and Organization, Volume 22(3), pp.199-202, (2016). This article provides an introduction to a series of papers appearing in the journal Culture and Organization which look at the way sport is used as a tool for social organisation. Sport as a social practice has become relevant in many different fields, such as health, economy, politics, education, work and leisure. The importance of sport transcends the confines of the sports field because sport involves not only organisation, but also organising. Sport becomes a social platform for collective effort, as well as a platform for performance and excellence. Professional and commercial sport has taken on economic and political dimensions; while community sport remains relevant for the activity itself, the pleasure of taking part, and the joy and friendship it entails. The authors thus perceive sport at different levels as offering different outcomes, giving social scientists an opportunity to rethink relationships in the context of how sport is organised and presented.
  • Population levels of sport participation: implications for sport policy, Eime R, Harvey J, Charity M, and Payne W, BMC Public Health, Volume 16, article 752, (2016). This study integrates sports club membership data from five popular Australian team sports (e.g. Australian rules football, basketball, cricket, hockey and netball) in the state of Victoria for the period 2010–2012; and investigates sport participation by age, gender, and region (metropolitan or non-metropolitan). Overall, participation in these popular sports increased by over 50,000 in Victoria from 2010 to 2012. The highest proportion of participants were in the 10–14 year age range. Male and female age profiles of participation were generally similar in shape, but the female peak at age 10–14 was sharper, indicating fewer participants at both the younger and older ends of the age continuum. Participation rates decline sharply in late adolescence, particularly for females, and while this may not be a concern from a broad health perspective so long as girls transition into other forms of physical activity, it is certainly a matter of concern for the sport sector. The authors suggest that sport policy places a higher priority on grass-roots participation and that sporting organisations prioritise retention issues occurring during adolescence, particularly for females, so as to maximise the potential for sport participation to be maintained in adolescence and adulthood.
  • Sink or Swim? A survival analysis of sport dropout in Australian youth swimmers, Kylie Moulds, Shaun Abbott, Johan Pion, et.al., Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, Volume 30(11), pp.2222-2233, (2020). In a large representative sample of swimmers, survival analyses identified age‐group, competition level, and city proximity were associated with increased swimming dropout rates.
  • Sport drop-out during adolescence: is it real, or an artefact of sampling behaviour? R. M Eime, J. T Harvey, and M. J Charity, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, Volume 11(4), pp.715-726, (2019). Understanding sport participation and drop-out are important for sport management. Many children sample or play multiple sports before specialising. However, quantifying these behaviours is challenging. This study demonstrates a feasible methodology for approximate cross-linking of de-identified data and thereby quantifying the extent of sampling behaviour, and hence investigating to what degree the decline in community club-based sport participation observed during adolescence is attributable to a ‘sampling to specialisation’ effect as opposed to drop-out from sport altogether. Results showed that the effect of individuals playing multiple sports is highest for ages 5–14, and then it diminishes as specialisation increases. Nevertheless, this study confirms that, after adjustment for this change in behaviour, the drop-off in community sport participation during adolescence persists, i.e. it is real and not simply an artefact of sampling/specialisation behaviour. It is recommended that sport policy focuses on overall participation across sports, taking into account the sampling and specialising phenomena which naturally occur, rather than merely asking individual sports to increase participation.
  • Sport for Adults Aged 50+ Years: Participation Benefits and Barriers, Claire Jenkin, Rochelle Eime, Hans Westerbeek, et.al., Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, Volume 26(3), pp.363-371, (2018). Despite the health benefits of sport, the proportion of people participating in sport decreases with age. This qualitative study explored the benefits and barriers regarding older adult community sport participation, from the perspective of national sporting organizations, in addition to older adult sport club and nonsport club members, across eight focus group interviews (n = 49). Seven benefits were discussed, primarily social and physical health and intergenerational opportunities. Ten barriers were also discussed, including physical health, time constraints, and lack of appropriate playing opportunities. Ensuring access to activities that can benefit social health is of great importance to older adults. As sport can provide participation opportunities across generations, it can be an ideal physical activity option for this age group. However, a major barrier is that sport policy often prioritizes the participation for younger age groups. Policymakers should include a focus on older adults, to derive social health benefits.
  • Sport participation settings: where and ‘how’ do Australians play sport? R. Eime, J. Harvey and M. Charity, BMC Public Health, Volume 20, article number: 1344, (2020). Leisure-time physical activity and sport participation trends are often reported, both in aggregate and by specific activity. Recently there has been a rise in overall leisure-time physical activity, but little change in the prevalence of organised sport. It is important that the development of sport policy, infrastructure and strategic developments meet the changing landscape of participation.This study utilised data about participation in sport and recreational physical activity collected in the AusPlay survey from a representative sample of adults and children in the Australian state of Victoria.Participation and settings across 12 major sports were investigated for children and adults.For children, the most popular sport was swimming, followed by Australian football, and basketball. For adults the most popular sports were swimming, followed by golf, and tennis. There were considerable differences between the profiles of settings of participation for the 12 sports. Across the 12 sports, the majority of participation by children took place within a sports club or association setting, representing 63% of all instances of sport participation. For adults, sports clubs and associations was also the most popular setting, but it represented only 37% of instances of participation. The authors conclude that traditionally, community clubs and inter-club competitions provided the main setting for sport participation, but this is no longer the case, particularly for adults. If the community sport sector is to continue to flourish, it must consider new strategies and participation options more attractive to other segments of its potential market.
  • Participation Design Toolkit, Sport Australia, (accessed 26 February 2021). This toolkit will help sports design quality participation experiences and attract and retain more participants. The information, resources and templates will assist sport to develop effective participation plans and co-design participant-centred products and experiences that are informed by market insights and evidence-based approaches. Also provides links to additional evidence base and best-practice approaches to plan and design participation experiences that are focused on the needs of participants.
  • Project Play. The Aspen Institute’s Project Play offers a pathway. This is the microsite for our seminal report, Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game, identifying eight strategies for the eight sectors that touch the lives of children. Aggregating the most promising opportunities to emerge from two years of roundtables with 300+ leaders, the playbook was released in 2015 at the Project Play Summit, where US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called the report “a very powerful roadmap“ for innovation and collaboration. It’s also a framework for what good looks like in youth sports.
    • The 8 Plays. Project Play identified eight promising strategies that stakeholders can use to help every child become physically active through sports.
  • Sport and Recreation Spatial. This online resource provides a national geographic information system (GIS) for presenting spatial data relevant to all levels of the Australian sport and recreation sector. Statistical information will provide the sport and recreation sector with increased capacity for research, strategic planning, and development of participation programs and facilities. Project partners include national and state sporting organisations, recreation, health, government and university organisations.

Licencing restrictions apply to some resources listed below.

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  • Understanding the sports consumer, Belinda Clark, Head of Junior Cricket, Cricket Australia, Our Sporting Future conference, Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, QLD, (17 November 2017).
  • Understanding the sports consumer, Janette Brocklesby, Research Lead, Community Sport NZ, Jo Juler, Head of Marketing, Tennis Australia, Kerry Tavrou, Gymnastics Victoria, Our Sporting Future conference, Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, QLD, (16 November 2017).
  • Growing Sport Participation, Rochelle Eime, Founder and Director, Sport and Recreational Spatial, Australian Sport Technologies Network Annual Conference, (21 October 2014).
  • Future Trends in Sport Participation, Paul Fairweather, Deputy General Manager (Sport Insights), Australian Sports Commission, Australian Sport Technologies Network Annual Conference, (21 October 2014).
  • Physical Activity, Sport and Walking, Stefan Grun, Manager Physical Activity, Sport and Healthy Eating Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, VicHealth, Australian Sport Technologies Network Annual Conference, (21 October 2014).
  • The changing face of participation, Sam Almaliki, Commissioner - NSW Community Relations Commission “For a Multicultural NSW”, Kitty Chiller, Active After-school Communities program, Brendan Lynch, exSport, Landry Fevre, General Manager, Media, Commercial Strategy, NBN Co, Our Sporting Future 2013, (12 April 2013).

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