Sport Participation in Australia

Sport Participation in Australia

Prepared by : Christine May, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport
Evaluation by : Graeme Murphy, Lecturer, University of Sunshine Coast (March 2019)
Reviewed by network : Australian Sport Information Network (AUSPIN), March 2019
Last updated : 17 January 2020
Content disclaimer : See Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer
Sport Participation in Australia
Sport Australia

Introduction

Sport participation at all levels and abilities makes an important contribution to the amount of regular physical activity (PA) undertaken by Australians.

There is now compelling evidence that increased levels of PA can bring wide-ranging health benefits for individuals and communities. These benefits can extend beyond physical health to include mental health and personal well-being. At a population level these benefits include reducing the cost of the public health burden on governments and contributing to stronger and more cohesive communities.

Key messages

    Children's participation (0-14)

    AusPlay data shows that 59.1% of Australian children regularly participate (at least 1x week) in organised physical activity outside of school hours. 73.3% of participants do sport-related activities.

    Adult participation (15+)

    AusPlay data shows that over 82% of Australian adults regularly participate (at least 1x week) in physical activity. 58.3% of participants do sport-related activities.

    Social capital

    Regular community-based sport participation in Australia generates an estimated AUD$18.7B value p.a. in social capital—that is, enhancing social productivity for a common good

    National Plan

    The Australian Government's national sport plan, Sport 2030, recognises the personal, social and economic benefits of sport and aims to make Australia the world’s most active, healthy sporting nation.

Participation statistics and trends

person with clipboard

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, or cultural influences.

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. 

Some key insights from the most recent survey results include:

Participation in sport and/or physical activity:  

  • 84.2% of women (over 15 years) participate at least 1x per week and 65.2% 3x per week.
  • 80.4% of men (over 15 years) participate at least 1x per week and 60.4% 3x per week.
  • 59.1% 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 24.1% three times or more per week.

Participation in sport-related activities: 

  • 49.1% of women do at least some sport related activities, 41.2% participate only in non-sport related activities.
  • 67.7% of participating men do at least some sport related activities, 22.2% participate only in non-sport related activities.
  • 77.2% of children do at least some sport related activities, only 3.9% 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 durations than non-sport related physical activities; however they participate in non-sport related physical activities more frequently.

Non-playing roles

  • Around 17% of people (over the age of 15) participate in a non-playing role in sport (18% men; 15% women). 
  • The most common roles for men are: coach/instructor/trainer; official; and administrator/committee member; for women: coach/instructor/trainer; official; and team manager/coordinator. 
Top activities - adults

  • Walking (Recreational); Fitness/Gym; Athletics, track and field (includes jogging and running); Swimming; Cycling; Bush walking; Yoga; Football/soccer; Tennis; Golf; Basketball; Pilates; Netball; Australian football; Cricket. 

Top activities - children

  • Swimming; Football/soccer; Gymnastics; Dancing (recreational); Australian football; Basketball; Tennis; Netball; Athletics, track and field (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. Too lazy
    5. Don't like sport/PA

    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. Hobby
    9. Performance/competition
    10. Walk the dog

    Motivators (women)

    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. Walk the dog
    8. Active transport
    9. Hobby
    10. Performance/competition
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Infographic iconAusPlay

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:  

Infographic iconAustralian participation statistics

  • Australian Cycling Participation: results of the 2019 Naitonal Cycling Participation SurveyAustroads, (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, 2011-12Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4364.0.55.004 (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, Catalogue Number 4901.0 (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 (PDF  - 175 KB), 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 (PDF - 308 KB), 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).
  • Longitudinal patterns of physical activity in children aged 8 to 12 years: the LOOK study, Telford RM, Telford RD, Cunningham R, Cochrane T, Davey R and Waddington G,International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, (published online 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.
  • Motivators and constraints to participation in sports and physical recreation (PDF  - 296 KB), 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 (PDF  - 2.4 MB), 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, 2013-14Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4177.0 (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, 2011-12Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4177.0 (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 SportAustralian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4156.0.55.001 (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, 2012Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4156.0 (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 in Victoria, 2017, Research summaryVicHealth (2019). This summary outlines key findings and insights from the third 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 2017 and compares this with participation in 2015 and 2016. Some key findings included: 
    • Participation in sport increased by more than 125,700 participants (1% increase in the participation rate) between 2015–2017. This was approximately equal for male and female participation. 
    • Sport participation rates among females are half of those among males. From 2015 to 2017 there was a considerable increase in female participation in some traditionally male dominated sports, mainly within the 5–19 year age groups. 
    • Sport participation rates are higher in regional Victoria compared to metropolitan Melbourne (Figure 3). Metropolitan growth areas also have a lower sport participation level than other metropolitan regions. 
  • Sport participation in Victoria, 2015, Research summaryVicHealth (2016). Playing club-based sport accounts for about one-fifth of people’s health-enhancing levels of activity activity. Participation in organised sport is associated with better physical and mental health outcomes, including lower prevalence of overweight and obesity and type 2 diabetes; as well as improved social, emotional, and psychosocial wellbeing for children, adolescents and adults. This Sport Participation Research Project aims to provide a reliable measure of sport participation in Victoria, including trends over time, to inform decision making and investments by sport sector organisations relating to program implementation and facility planning. This research will collate and analyse sport participation data over the three years from 2015 to 2017, reporting on annual participation levels and trends.
  • Sport participation rates: aggregation of 12 sports, Victoria 2017 (PDF  - 646 KB), 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

Finder iconAustralian Policies

  • 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; and
    • Strengthening Australia’s sport industry — A thriving Australian sport and recreation industry.

Report iconReports 

  • 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, (PDF  - 2.3 MB), Sport England, (2014). This report summarises the findings of sport and participation research. 
  • Children and Sport: full report (PDF - 1.7 MB), Tim Olds, Jim Dollman, Kate Ridley, Kobie Boshoff, Sue Hartshorne, Simon Kennaugh, 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 reportsAustralian 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 (PDF  - 119 KB). 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 ReportMEC/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, (PDF  - 1.3 MB), Bailey R, Collins D, Ford P, MacNamara A, Toms M and Pearce G, 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.
  • Sport Participation and Play: how to get more Australians moving (PDF  - 1.9 MB), Hans Westerbeek, 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, (PDF  - 423 KB), 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, (PDF  - 2.2 MB), 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 (PDF  - 700 KB), 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 (PDF  - 533 KB), 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 (PDF  - 262 KB), 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, (published online 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 aults 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. 

Research iconResearch

  • Age profiles of sport participants, Eime R, Harvey J, Charity M, Casey M, Westerbeek H and Payne W, BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation, Volume 8, published online (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, Pearce M, Parkinson K, Adamson A Reilly J and Vella S, BMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine, Volume 2, Issue 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, et.al., Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports (published online 29 July 2015). 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, Craike M, Symons C and Payne W, BMC Public Health, Volume 16 (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.
  • Play and work: An introduction to sport and organization, Vermeulena J, Kosterb M, Loosa E and van Slobbea M, Culture and Organization, Volume 22, Number 3 (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 (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. 
  • Sport drop-out during adolescence: is it real, or an artefact of sampling behaviour? R. M Eime, J. T Harvey & M. J Charity, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, (17 July 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.
  • Tracking Club Sport participation from childhood to early adulthood, Richards R, Williams S, Poulton R and Reeder A, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, Volume 78, Issue 5 (2007). This study examined the strength of tracking sport participation from childhood to early adulthood among the Dunedin (New Zealand) Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study cohort. Participation in sport, dance, or gymnastics as part of a club or group (outside of school) was assessed at ages 7, 9, 15, 18, and 21 years. The results of this study suggest that encouraging sport participation during childhood and adolescence may result in a modest increase in the likelihood of participation later in life. However, the substantial movement into and out of sport participation observed in this cohort (as well as the results of similar studies) suggests that caution must be used when relying solely on sport promotion among youth as a strategy to promote lifelong participation.
  • Understanding participation in sport and physical activity among children and adults: a review of qualitative studies (PDF  - 91 KB), Allender S, Cowburn G and Foster C, Health Education Research, Volume 21, Number 6 (2006). This paper systematically examines published and unpublished qualitative research studies of UK children’s and adults’ reasons for participation and non-participation in sport and physical activity. The review covers peer reviewed and gray literature from 1990 to 2004. The majority of studies cite social interaction and enjoyment as common reasons for children’s participation in sport and other forms of physical activity.
  • The young and the restful (re-visited): The effects of recreational choices and demographic factors on children's participation in sport (PDF  - 231 KB), Mike Stratton, Lewis Conn and Tammie Smallacome, paper presented at the Fifth National Physical Activity Conference, (13-15 October 2005). This paper is an update of findings presented in a paper at the Australian Social Policy Conference in July 2005. That paper examined the key characteristics of child participants and non-participants in organised sport, and sought to identify whether there are any tradeoffs between time spent on sport and time spent on other recreational activities. The earlier paper focused on the first issue - participation and non-participation - while this update adds some supplementary data on the duration and frequency of participation for those children who played organised sport.

resources iconResources

  • 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.
    • #DONTRETIREKID. Kids everywhere drop out of sports too early. Together, we can keep them in the game. Series of videos around the Project Play eight strategies. 
  • 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.
  • VicHealth Research. This research summary provides a picture of participation in organised community sport in Victoria.

Video iconClearinghouse videos

  • 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) 

Video iconOther Videos

Value of sport and physical activity

Programs intended to increase physical activity have predominantly been linked to health outcomes and the corresponding potential savings in health care costs. In addition to health benefits, participation in sport and active recreation is also seen as another way to improve personal wellbeing, and as a forum for creating social capital through social connectivity and resilience.

    Health

    Sufficient physical activity reduces the risk of developing: coronary artery disease; type 2 diabetes; depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses; dementia/cognitive decline in older adults; some cancers

    Personal and social

    While all PA provides significant benefits, sport—particularly team-based sport—can provide stronger outcomes including: improved resilience and mental health outcomes; positive role models; social connectedness; higher likelihood of meeting PA guidelines and continuing PA long term. 

    Economic

    Regular community-based sport participation in Australia generates an estimated AUD$18.7B value p.a. in social capital. This includes: direct economic benefits; avoided health costs; educational benefits; and, the value of the volunteer and not-for-profit networks. 
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.

ReadingReading 

  • Brain Boost: How sport and physical activity enhance children’s learning, what the research is telling us, (PDF  - 2.9 MB), Smith J, Government of Western Australia, Department of Sport and Recreation (2015). This report is a follow-up to one published in 2010, it updates the latest research supporting the positive link between physical activity (including sport) and cognitive development and academic success. It details findings from Australian and international research published in peer reviewed journals and it provides summaries of intervention and longitudinal research, correlational studies, and research reviews.
  • MATCH: Spotlight on a Canadian Study on Sport Participation, Julie Goguen Carpenter & Mathieu Belanger, Sircuit, (November 2019). The Monitoring Activities of Teenagers to Comprehend their Habits (MATCH) study is unique in the world (Bélanger et al., 2013). It followed nearly 1,000 children for eight years, from ages 10 to 17. Participants completed questionnaires administered three times per year about their level of participation in specific sports and physical activities, associated motives, and key influences including screen time, sleep, barriers to participation, and life events. MATCH recently completed its 24th and final survey cycle in June 2019. Since 2011, it has provided a foundation for insight into the determinants of sport and physical activity participation as well as factors that influence these behaviours. To date, MATCH results were the subject of six graduate student theses, 20 published or under review manuscripts, and 60 presentations at academic conferences. Analyses are still ongoing, but some of the key findings areas are summarized. 
  • Organized sports in childhood linked to better emotional health in adolescence: study, Press Canadienne, Montreal Gazette, (9 June 2019). A study of Quebec children has found a link between consistent participation in organized sports in childhood and better emotional health once the child reaches the age of 12.
  • Report reveals 'value of swimming', Connect Sport, (8 November 2019). Swim England has called on the Government and healthcare professionals to “maximise the benefits” that swimming offers to society after publishing research on the economic impact of the sport. According to the ‘Value of Swimming’ report, swimming is helping to save the health and social care system more than £357million a year.
  • Yet another reason sport is good for you! Roy Morgan Research, Article 6118, (published online 17 March 2015). The latest findings from Roy Morgan Research show that the 1.35 million Australian adults who participate regularly in some kind of team sport are noticeably less likely than the average Aussie to experience depression, anxiety or stress. Between 2013 and 2014, 25% of Australians aged 18+ reported experiencing stress at some point in the preceding 12 months, compared with 21% of those who regularly play a team sport. This difference is most striking among the under-25 age group, with all three conditions being far less common among those who play team sport on a regular basis. Incidence of anxiety fell from 31% to 17%, depression from 17% to 8%, and anxiety from 20% to 10%. 

Report iconReports

  • Active Citizens Worldwide: annual report 2019 (PDF  - 10.9 MB), Active Citizens Worldwide, (2019). Now in the second year ACW works to provide compelling evidence from participating cities (Auckland, London, Singapore, Stockholm) to shed light on the value of sport and physical activity (economic, health, social) and the complex systemic interplay between socio-economics, demographics, policy, and sport/physical activity participation. Some highlights of the report include: Physically active individuals are: 6% happier; 28% more trusting of community: have 6% higher life satisfaction; and, 14% less psychologically distressed. Sport can also lead to more time spent with others. For every hour spend doing sport, 48 minutes are spent with other people; for non-sport exercise 1 hour=23 minutes spent with others. The report also highlights that well-off individuals are up to 1.7 times more likely to be active than those less well-off and the participation gap between men and women remains pronounced in all participating cities. 
  • Australia: the healthiest country by 2020, (PDF  - 835 KB), National Preventative Health Taskforce (2008). This report outlines the national preventative health strategy, with seven strategic directions: (1) shared responsibility by developing strategic partnerships, (2) acting early and throughout life, (3) engaging communities, (4) influencing markets and developing coherent policies, (5) reducing inequity, (6) the needs of Indigenous Australians, and (7) refocusing primary healthcare towards prevention.
  • The economics of exercise: Measuring the business benefit of being physically fit, PJM Economics for AXA PPP healthcare, (September 2019). Highlights the substantial return on investment businesses could stand to make from increasing physical activity levels among employees. According to the study, if all employees met the recommended guidelines of doing 75 minutes of vigorous activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity per week (just over 20 minutes per day), it could deliver up to £6.6 billion in direct productivity gains to businesses each year.  
  • Everybody Active, Every Day: An evidence-based approach to physical activity, (PDF - 1.3 MB), Varney J, Brannan M and Aaltonen G, Public Health England (2014). This report from Public Health England, an autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health, provides evidence that physical activity reduces the risk of many preventable diseases. It also supports the role of physical activity in enhancing the life of everyone, from children to mature age.
  • Intergenerational Review of Australian Sport (PDF  - 1.6 MB), BCG Consulting for the Australian Sports Commission, (2017). Together, sport creates significant value for Australia, with at least $7 returned on every dollar expended in the sector. This high rate of return is a combination of...direct economic benefits, the network of volunteers and not-for-profits, avoided health costs, and education benefits.
  • Getting Australia Moving: establishing a physically literate and active nation (game plan), (PDF  - 2.2 MB), Keegan R, Keegan S, Daley S, Ordway C and Edwards A, Centre of Excellence in Physical Literacy and Active Youth (CEPLAY), University of Canberra (2013). Physical inactivity costs the Australian economy about $13.8 billion annually in healthcare costs, lost productivity and premature mortality. This report presents the case for increasing physical literacy amongst children in Australia, with a view to promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyles. Physical literacy is a concept capturing: (1) the ability to move effectively; (2) the desire to move; (3) the perceptual abilities that support effective movement; (4) the confidence and assurance to attempt movement challenges; and (5) the subsequent ability to interact effectively with the environment and other people. Children who become physically literate are more likely to achieve sporting prowess, athleticism, cardiovascular fitness or more time spent being active; which are amongst a long list of positive outcomes.
  • Sport and Social Capital, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4917.0 (2012). In contrast to the evidence supporting the positive impact of sport and active recreation on health, much less is known about the social impacts. It is argued that sport provides opportunities and settings for social interaction, sharing common interests and enhancing a sense of community. This report examines the associations between participation in sport and physical recreation and social wellbeing using a range of indicators from the Australian Bureau of Statistics' 2010 General Social Survey.
  • Sports and Health in America, (PDF  - 423 KB), 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.
  • Value of Swimming, Swim England, (November 2019). As the national governing body for swimming, water polo, diving and synchronised swimming in England, Swim England commissioned this research to build a robust evidence base around the specific benefits of water-based activity. The findings show how swimming can positively contribute to physical and mental wellbeing, to individual and community development, and help to reduce the burden to the health and social care system. Some of the key benefits suggested by this report include that swimming is already reducing health and social care costs by up to £357million a year. This includes estimated savings from dementia, strokes, diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer, depression, and reduced GP and psychotherapy visits by those who swim regularly. Additionally, across the different datasets analysed, a positive association was seen between swimming and: social connectedness; trust (in general and of neighbours); community cohesion; volunteering; percieved ability to achieve goals; life satisfaction; and, health and mental health. 

Research iconResearch

  • An interpretive analysis of life skills associated with sport participation, Holt N, Tamminen K, Tink L and Black D, Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise, Volume 1, Number 2 (2009). The purpose of this study was to examine how people may learn life skills through their involvement in regular competitive sport programs. The research showed that it was not the sport itself that taught participants these skills; rather, athletes’ stories revolved around social interactions they experienced in sport. The most meaningful aspects of competitive youth sport related to participants’ interactions with peers. Without exception, sport provided participants with opportunities to expand their social network. In general, this finding is consistent with previous research that shows engagement in organised sport activities exposes youth to people with whom they might not otherwise engage. In addition to the general concept of developing friendships and peer networks, more specific social skills were acquired, including the ability to work with other people. No distinction between team and individual sports was found.
  • Childhood Sport Profiles Predict Mental Health in Adolescence, Isabelle Doré, Marie-Pierre Sylvestre, Catherine M Sabiston, Francois Gallant, Conference paper presented at the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity conference, Hong Kong. (June 2018).  This study examines the longitudinal associations between three sport profiles (recreational, performance, non-participation) in childhood and mental health in adolescence. Participants include 756 children age 10-11 years at inception, from the longitudinal Monitoring Activities of Teenagers to Comprehend their Habits (MATCH) study. They self-reported their participation in organized and unorganized PA in questionnaires administered every 4 months over 5 years during class time. Involvement in performance or recreational sport profiles in all 5 years was associated with flourishing mental health, relative to involvement in ≤4 years. the authors conclude that sport participation, especially in performance sport, during childhood and adolescence is associated with higher mental health in adolescence. If replicated, these findings support developing strategies to encourage children to engage and remain involved in sports into adolescence, to positively impact mental health.
  • The contribution of sport participation to overall health enhancing physical activity levels in Australia: a population-based study, Eime R, Harvey J, Charity M, Casey M, Uffelen J and Payne W, BMC Public Health, Volume 15, (published online 20 August 2015). This study examined the contribution of sport to overall health-enhancing leisure-time physical activity (HELPA) in a sample of Australian adults, aged 15+ years. Data from the Exercise, Recreation and Sport Survey (ERASS), N=21,602, were analysed to categorise leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) as HELPA or non-HELPA, and to categorise HELPA activities and sessions of HELPA activity by setting and frequency. The contribution of sport to HELPA was estimated, both directly through activities and settings classified as sport per-se, and indirectly through other fitness activities related to preparation for sport. The results indicated that 82% of respondents reported some LTPA in the 12 months prior to the survey. Overall, respondents reported 37,020 activity types, of which 94% were HELPA. Among HELPA activities, 71% were non-organised activity, 11% were organised but not sport club-based, and 18% were sport club-based.
  • Enhancing life prospects of socially vulnerable youth through sport participation: a mixed methods study, Super S, Hermens N, Verkooijen K, Koelen M, BMC Public Health, Volume 14 (2014). The results of this study support efforts of youth care organisations and local sport clubs to improve the life prospects of socially vulnerable youth through sport participation.
  • Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence, Warburton D, Nicol C and Bredin S, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Volume 174, Number 6 (2006). An evaluation of current literature confirms that there is irrefutable evidence of the effectiveness of regular physical activity in the primary and secondary prevention of several chronic diseases (e.g., cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression and osteoporosis) and premature death. There appears to be a linear relation between physical activity and health status, such that a further increase in physical activity and fitness will lead to additional improvements in health status. Health promotion programs using physical activity should target people of all ages, since the risk of chronic disease starts in childhood and increases with age.
  • How adolescent subjective health and satisfaction with weight and body shape are related to participation in sports, Dyremyhr AE, Diaz E, Meland E, Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2014; published online 12 June. Physical exercise is positively related to self-reported health but has negative associations with body image for many adolescents. Health promotion efforts should consider this paradox and stimulate physical activity and sports along with body acceptance.
  • Integrating public health and sport management: Sport participation trends 2001-2010, Eime R, Sawyer N, Harvey J, Casey N, Westerbeek H, Payne W, Sport Management Review, published online (19 June 2014). Using data from the Exercise, Recreation and Sport Survey (ERASS) from 2001 to 2010, the aim of this study was to examine physical activity participation levels and trends in Australia over a decade. This paper also discusses the potential synergy between the public health and sport management domains to collect and analyse sport participation data and provide an evidence base for policy development.
  • Organized sport trajectories from childhood to adolescence and health associations, Howie E, McVeigh J, Smith A, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Volume 47, Issue 7 (2016). This research identifies organised sport trajectories from early childhood to late adolescence in a cohort of Western Australian children/adolescents. Data were taken from participants in the Raine Study at ages 5, 8, 10, 14 and 17 years; for physical activity, body composition, and self-rated physical and mental health. Three trajectory classes were identified: (1) consistent sports participators; (2) sport dropouts, and; (3) non-participants (girls) and sport joiners (boys). Gender differences included: consistent participators – boys (55%) and girls (47.5%); sport dropouts – boys (37%) and girls (34%); non-participants – girls (18%) and sport joiners – boys (8%). Differences in long-term health outcomes were examined across the organised sport trajectories. Both boys and girls who remained physically active had significantly lower lean body mass and reported better mental and physical health. The difference in health outcomes supports the need to encourage youth to maintain physically active.
  • The Social Impacts of Sport and Physical Recreation: an annotated bibliographyAustralian Bureau of Statistics on behalf of the Recreation andSport Industry Statistical Group, (May 2001). The positive impact of participation in sport and active recreation on physical health is now well accepted. In contrast, much less is known about the social impact of sport and physical recreation and, in recent years, there has been an increasing focus on, and interest in, identifying such impacts. This bibliography presents details of recent articles, reports and other publications which describe applied research on the social impacts of sport and active recreation. There is a specific focus on articles which present empirical evidence. Major literature reviews describing recent research in this area are also included.
  • A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for children and adolescents: informing development of a conceptual model of health through sport, Eime R, Young J, Harvey J, Charity M and Payne W, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, Volume 10 (2013). This paper presents the results of a systematic review of studies published between 1990 and 2012 on the psychological and social health benefits of participation in sport. Thirteen different psychosocial aspects of health were identified in the literature. The most common positive health benefit from sports participation was improved wellbeing, followed by reduced stress, reduced distress, increased social functioning and vitality. Participation in sport is advocated as a form of leisure-time physical activity for adults and young people that can produce a range of benefits.
  • Years Participating in Sports During Childhood Predicts Mental Health in Adolescence: A 5-Year Longitudinal Study, Isabelle Doré, Catherine M. Sabiston, Marie-Pierre Sylvestre, et.al., Journal of Adolescent Health, Volume 64(6), pp.790-796, (June 2019). Sport participation promotes mental health and prevents mental illness. However, the association between specific sport profiles and mental health has not been examined. We investigate the longitudinal association between number of years with a recreational or performance sport profile and mental health during adolescence and whether these associations differ by sex. Both recreational and performance sport profiles in childhood and early adolescence are positively associated with mental health in late adolescence. To promote mental health, strategies to encourage youth to engage and remain involved in sport are warranted.

Video iconClearinghouse videos

Video iconOther videos

  • Monitoring Activities of Teenagers to Comprehend their Habits (MATCH) study results, IHDCYH Talks Entretiens de l'IDSEA/YouTube, (1 November 2019). The Monitoring Activities of Teenagers to Comprehend their Habits (MATCH) study is unique in the world (Bélanger et al., 2013). It followed nearly 1,000 children for eight years, from ages 10 to 17. Participants completed questionnaires administered three times per year about their level of participation in specific sports and physical activities, associated motives, and key influences including screen time, sleep, barriers to participation, and life events.  

Factors influencing sport and physical activity participation

There are literally hundreds of factors identified in the literature that can influence sports participation or non-participation, and the strength of each factor can vary from one individual to another 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.

Factors that consistently appear in the literature as supportive of sports participation include: parental and family support (children of active parents are more likely to be active as well), peer interaction, positive environment, and 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 times, and an environment that is ‘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 PA. Although this is still quite early research experts recommend that children and young people try to participate in a variety of sports and physical activities in order to maximise life-long sport and PA enjoyment and engagement. 

Cost (direct financial and time)

cartoon pig on treadmill

Although there are many factors that influence sports participation, the relatively 'high' cost is consistently identified in the literature, although financial cost is not always the primary consideration. Time commitment to organised sports participation is often seen as a 'cost' and therefore, becomes a major concern. This includes the time commitment by the participant and, in the case of a child, the time commitment of parents and family.

Organised sport registration fees can vary substantially by sport, age of participants, and also may and may not include additional expenses such as uniforms or game fees. Additionally, incidental costs, such as transportation, social cost, or time cost can also be significant. Voluntary service within the sports club system, particularly for parents, can also be viewed as a social cost, over-and-above the monetary outlay for club membership, travel, training, and competitions. Because people and families are becoming ‘time poor’, alternative forms of physical activity and recreation in less structured environments (compared to clubs) are becoming more attractive.

The Sport Australia AusPlay survey collects information on the amounts being paid for adults and children to participate in sport and physical activities. The most recent results indicate that: 

Adults (aged over 15 years) 

  • 59.3% of adults pay money to an organisation or venue to participate in sport or physical activity each year. 
  • The average cost per year was AU$913. Across all age groups costs for women are slightly higher (AU$928) than men (AU$897). 
  • Payments broken down by sports and recreation clubs and associations average around AU$480 per year, suggesting that multiple sports, or other activities (such as gym memberships or private training and coaching) are also included.   
Children (0-14 years)

  • 96% of children (0-14 years) participate in physical activities at paid organisations/venues. 
  • The average amount paid to participate was AU$882 per year. Parents appear to spend more on girls activities than boys, AU$953 for girls versus AU$817 for boys. 
  • Payments broken down by sports and recreation clubs and associations average around AU$580 per year, suggesting that other activities (potentially private dance or swimming lessons) are also included. 
Recognising that financial cost is often a barrier several Australian states and territories currently offer 'sport vouchers' to parents to help off-set the costs of children participating in sport. More information is available in the Clearinghouse Participation Grants and Funding topic. 
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.

ReadingReading

  • How Kids’ Sports Became a $15 Billion Industry, Sean Gregory, Time, (24 August 2017). Across the nation, kids of all skill levels, in virtually every team sport, are getting swept up by a youth-sports economy that increasingly resembles the pros at increasingly early ages. At the high end, families can spend more than 10% of their income on registration fees, travel, camps and equipment.
  • Which junior winter sport is the most affordable for you? See our fees guide for the upcoming season, Brayden Heslehurst, Quest Newspapers/Courier Mail, (23 February 2017). Compares the average upfront registration costs of several popular sports in the Brisbane area including: Australian rules football; rugby league; netball; rugby union; hockey; and football (soccer). Costs range from AU$195 to AU$415. 
  • The troubling price of playing youth sports, Mark Hyman, Assistant Teaching Professor of Management and Tourism Studies, George Washington University, The Conversation, (3 June 2015). The escalating costs [of youth sport] are a growing concern on sidelines and in bleachers across this country. Ultimately, the price of play threatens something fundamental about sports for our kids: the expectation of a level playing field and an egalitarian spirit.
  • Parents cry foul over the high cost of children's sports: poll, Ashleigh Gleeson, Newcastle Herald, (9 May 2014). Looks at the pricing of popular team sports for children around the age of 12 in the Newcastle region. Found significant variations, ranging from AU$50 to AU$800. 
  • Is local sport too pricey?ABC RN, (5 May 2014). Radio interview with Anthony Moore, General Manager, Participation and Sustainable Sports with the Australian Sports Commission; Tom Godfrey, Choice; and Sonya, Mother of three sons who play AFL. 

Research iconResearch

  • 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, Pearce M, Parkinson K, Adamson A Reilly J and Vella S, 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. Reponses 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.
  • Drivers of Participation, Sport Australia, (accessed 18 April 2019). A toolkit to support organisations to design and deliver participation outcomes, to get more Australians moving more often. The toolkit covers drivers and barriers of participation, trends that impact sport participation, and planning methodology.
  • Parental perceptions of barriers to children’s participation in organised sport in Australia, Hardy L, et. al., Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, Volume 46(4), pp.197-203, (2010). A survey of over 400 parents of 5-17 year-old children in New South Wales was used to determine what factors were barriers to their child’s participation in sport. The greatest barrier was the perception (or reality) that parents did not have the time to commit their support to their child’s participation. The financial cost of participation was also reported to be a significant barrier, particularly among lower income families.
  • Proximal and distal factors associated with dropout versus maintained participation in organized sport, Boiche J and Sarrazin P, Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, Volume 8 (2009). The purpose of this study was to investigate the large number of determinants of sport dropout among French adolescents. This study identified geographical, financial and time constraint factors as predictors of dropout from organised sport. In addition, the value of the activity, level of satisfaction of the athlete, and perceived parental investment were also considered to be stronger predictors. An athlete's self-perception of their skill competence and the perception of their coach, were identified as secondary factors that predict dropout.

Competence (physical literacy)

young child

A number of studies have concluded that the perception most important to maintaining sports participation is competence. Participants who feel they are learning and advancing their skills, and parents who feel their child is advancing in physical and social skills, are highly likely to continue their participation in organised sports.

By learning the fundamentals of movement and developing a positive attitude to physical activity and sport, young children acquire the skills, experience, and attitudes that will allow them to take part in sports, as well as influencing their level of physical activity throughout their lives. Physical literacy increases the likelihood of sports participation and long-term physical activity. Research has shown that the childhood years are a critical period for motor development and the opportunity to become ‘physically literate’.  

More information is available in the Clearinghouse Physical Literacy topic. 

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.

ReadingReading

  • Why kids quit sports, Rogers S, Active for Life, (published online 9 April 2014). In many countries, such as the United States, Canada and Australia, the number of children who sign up each year for team sports and then quit after a year or two can be substantial. Australian research offers these insights into why kids quit sports: (1) they’re not having fun; (2) they feel awkward because they lack physical literacy; (3) their parents become too enthusiastic, to the point of becoming obnoxious; and (4) they dread the post-game analysis by parents.

Report iconReports

  • Getting Australia Moving: establishing a physically literate and active nation (game plan), (PDF  - 2.2 MB), Keegan R, Keegan S, Daley S, Ordway C and Edwards A, Centre of Excellence in Physical Literacy and Active Youth (CEPLAY), University of Canberra (2013). Physical inactivity costs the Australian economy about $13.8 billion annually in healthcare costs, lost productivity and premature mortality. This report presents the case for increasing physical literacy amongst children in Australia, with a view to promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyles. Physical literacy is a concept capturing: (1) the ability to move effectively; (2) the desire to move; (3) the perceptual abilities that support effective movement; (4) the confidence and assurance to attempt movement challenges; and (5) the subsequent ability to interact effectively with the environment and other people. Children who become physically literate are more likely to achieve sporting prowess, athleticism, cardiovascular fitness or more time spent being active; which are amongst a long list of positive outcomes.

 

Research iconResearch 

  • Benefits of early development of eye-hand coordination: evidence from the LOOK longitudinal study, Telford RD, Cunningham R, Telford RM, Olive L, Byrne D and Abhayaratna W, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports (2013). This study looked at the longitudinal and cross-sectional relationships between eye-hand coordination (EHC), cardiorespiratory fitness, physical activity level, percent body fat and body image, and organised sport participation of boys and girls at 8 years and again at 10 years of age. Analyses showed that boys and girls with better EHC were significantly fitter and a longitudinal relationship showed that girls who improved their EHC over the two years became fitter. There was also evidence that children with better EHC possessed a more positive body image. Even at age 8 years, boys and girls participating in organised sport possessed better EHC than non-participants. These data provide evidence for the premise that early acquisition of this single motor skill promotes the development of a child's fitness, body image, and participation in sport.
  • Changes in physical fitness and sports participation among children with different levels of motor competence: A two-year longitudinal study, Fransen J, Deprez D, Pion J, Tallir I, D'Hondt E, Vaeyens R, Lenoir M and Philippaerts R, Pediatric Exercise Science, Volume 26(1), (2014). The goal of this study was to investigate differences in physical fitness and sports participation over two years in children between the ages of 6 and 10 years; with relatively high, average and low motor competence. Children with high motor competence scored better on physical fitness tests and participated in sports more often. Since physical fitness levels between groups changed similarly over time, low motor competent children might be at risk of being less physically fit throughout their life. Furthermore, since low motor competent children participate less in sports, they have fewer opportunities of developing motor abilities and physical fitness and this may further prevent them from catching up with their peers having average or high motor competence.
  • 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 nonparticipation 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.
  • Participant development in sport: An academic review, (PDF  - 1.3 MB), Bailey R, Collins D, Ford P, MacNamara A, Toms M and Pearce G, 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.
  • Physical fitness in children with high motor competence is different from that in children with low motor competence, Haga M, Physical Therapy Journal, Volume 89 (2009). Several studies have demonstrated poor physical fitness outcomes among children having low motor skills. This study examined how physical fitness developed over time in 2 groups of children; those with a low level of competence in motor skills (LMC), and those with a high level of competence in motor skills (HMC). The differences in physical fitness outcomes between the groups were relatively constant over time. Given that various physical fitness components are linked to different health outcomes, the long-term consequences for children having LMC may be reduced fitness and health status later in life.
  • Sport-specific factors predicting player retention in junior cricket, Talpey S, Croucher T, Mustafa A and Finch C, European Journal of sport Science, Volume 17(3), (2017). This investigation sought to determine the performance and participation factors that influenced continued participation in junior cricket. Players (under the age of 16 years) at a community-level junior cricket association in Australia were surveyed over a seven-year period. Performance factors that significantly predicted continued participation in junior cricket were the number of innings batted and the number of overs bowled. Other performance factors, such as the number of runs scored or wickets taken also influenced ongoing participation. These results demonstrate that sufficient opportunity for children to participate in the game and expression of skills competence are key factors for retention in cricket.
  • Thirteen-year trends in child and adolescent fundamental movement skills: 1997–2010, Hardy L, Barnett L, Espinel P and Okely A, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Volume 45(10), (2013). This study examined changes in the physical competency of New South Wales school children on five common Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS): sprint run, vertical jump, catch, overarm throw, and kick. Serial surveys spanning 13 years were used to collect data. At each survey children's competency was low, rarely above 50 per cent. Between 1997 and 2004 both boys and girls improved in their competency for the five FMS areas, with the exception of the overarm throw in high school girls. These improvements coincided with the distribution of resources to government schools that supported the teaching of FMS and the use of physical education specialists. The observed improvements in FMS competency to 2004 were attributed to changes in school policies and practices. In 2010 overall competency remained low and data suggests that the current delivery of FMS programs requires stronger positioning within the school curriculum. Strategies to improve children's physical activity should consider ensuring children are taught skills and acquire competency so they can enjoy being physically active and engage in a variety of sports.
  • Why Are Girls Less Physically Active than Boys? Findings from the LOOK Longitudinal Study, Telford RM, Telford RD, Olive LS, Cochrane T, Davey R, PLoS ONE, Volume 11(3), Highlights the impact of differences between boys and girls in relation to attributes that are linked to greater lifetime physical activity (such as cardio-respiratory fitness, eye-hand co-ordination, and perceived competence in physical education/movement) and the need to take these factors into account when designing intervention strategies.  

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Cultural

Parents with child on bike

Internationally there has been considerable research linking general socio-economic factors—such as household income, attained education of parents, family size, and language spoken within the home environment—to participation in organised sports activities. The influence of parental attitudes and early school opportunities to engage in quality physical education programs has been shown to increase the likelihood that children will engage in sports.

Among Indigenous Australians and persons from Cultural and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) backgrounds, the participation rate in organised sports for both adults and children is generally lower than in the total population. The lower rate may be attributed to socio-economic factors as well as disadvantage created by location and access to programs and facilities. Within CaLD groups the participation rate appears to vary with the concentration of that ethnic group within the community. 

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures consistently show that people born in Australia are more likely to participate in sport and physical recreation than those born in non-English speaking countries, with women from non-English speaking backgrounds having the lowest levels of participation. 

In 2012 the participation rate of children between 5-14 years from families where both parents were born in Australia is 69 percent (75.7 percent for males and 62.6 percent for females), compared to 41.5 percent for both parents born in other countries (50 percent for males and 32.4 percent for females).

Although not specific to country of birth the AusPlay survey similarly shows that both adults and children from households who speak a language other than English at home are less likely to participate in sport or physical activity than those who spoke only English. 

Adults - At least once per year (90.5% only English; 86.8% other language); At least once per week (82.8% only English; 79.0% other language); At least 3 times per week (63.8% English; 58% other language).

Children - At least once per year (78.7% only English spoken at home; 70.4% language other than English spoken at home).

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.

Reading

  • Culture of competition discourages some kids from sport, Victoria University media release, (6 May 2019). A study of Aussie sports clubs finds that a culture of competitiveness is preventing kids from diverse backgrounds and abilities from participating in junior sport. The research also showed that many clubs were uncertain about the concept and how it related to them, or how to actively promote diversity and social inclusion. Some other key findings included: Diversity was often viewed as diverting resources from a club’s core business, which revolved around organising teams and improving playing skills; Clubs that actively promoted diversity were generally regarded by coaches and parents from outside clubs as not serious clubs, and suitable only for children who were ‘no good’ at sport; Men at clubs that focused on competition above participation were, on average, more likely to be homophobic, endorse stricter gender roles, enforce violence as a natural masculine trait, and were less likely to hold pro-disability attitudes. 

Report iconReports

Research iconResearch

  • Are immigrants more physically active than native-born Australians and does it changes over time? Evidence from a nationally representative longitudinal survey, Joshi S, Jatrana S and Paradies Y, Journal of Physical Activity and Health, Volume 14(2), (2017). This study looked at the differences and changes over time in the amount of physical activity performed by foreign-born immigrants from English speaking countries (ESC) and non-English speaking countries (NESC), relative to native-born Australians. Also, is there an association between the duration of Australian residence among ESC and NESC immigrants and their physical activity? This study found that ESC immigrants were more likely to achieve the recommended physical activity guidelines, while NESC immigrants had lower physical activity then native born Australians, after adjusting for covariates. There was no evidence that the amount of time (up to 20 years) spent in residence in Australia by NESC immigrants had any effect on physical activity. ESC immigrants were more likely to be physically active when their time in Australian residence was more than 20 years. The authors suggest that English language has a mediating role on the physical activity of immigrants.
  • Childhood socioeconomic position and adult leisure-time physical activity: a systematic review, Elharkeem A, Cooper R, Bann D and Hardy R, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, Volume 12 (2015). Evidence suggests that childhood socioeconomic circumstances can impact on adult long-term physical activity (LTPA). This review tested the hypothesis that a lower childhood socioeconomic position (SEP) is associated with less frequent LTPA during adulthood. A systematic review of literature was conducted from English language based publications; 45 papers from 36 studies were included in the review, most were of European origin. This review found evidence of an association between less advantaged childhood SEP and less frequent LTPA during adulthood. Future research should focus on how associations vary by gender and country.
  • Family support and ease of access link socio-economic status and sports club membership in adolescent girls: a mediation study, Eime R, et.al., International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, Volume 10 (2013). The aim of this research was to investigate the relationships between participation in a sports club and socio-economic status (SES), access to facilities, and family and peer support for female adolescents.  This research concluded that the highest levels of participation were among adolescent girls from monolingual Australian-born families, with two parents (at least one of whom was well-educated), with both parents employed, and high levels of parental assistance, engagement and support. Participation in club sport among both younger and older adolescent girls was significantly positively associated with the SES of both their neighbourhoods and their households, particularly in metropolitan areas. Participation in club sport was strongly influenced by the amount of family support provided and by access to facilities.  Improved participation by lower SES adolescent girls might be facilitated by improving access to sports facilities and promoting, encouraging and assisting parents to better support their daughters’ participation.
  • Overcoming disparities in organized physical activity: findings from Australian community strategies, Smith B, Thomas M and Batras D, Health Promotion International, (published online 4 June 2015). This article examines the barriers to participation in sport and strategies used to overcome these barriers among disadvantaged groups. Sporting organisations received community funding from VicHealth’s Participation in Community Sport and Recreation Program (PICSAR) to adopt strategies allowing them to include more people from Indigenous, low socioeconomic and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, as well as persons with disabilities into their programs. Disadvantaged groups typically have lower levels of physical activity and poorer health outcomes compared to the overall population. Several barriers to participation were identified – high costs, lack of transport to activities, cultural differences, unwelcoming sporting environments at clubs, and lack of suitable facilities for people with disabilities. A number of successful strategies were put in place to overcome these barriers, including: employing staff from the priority groups; building communication and partnerships over time with community organisations; specific training for staff and volunteers; and modifying traditional activities to better suit participants. Various strategies were also put in place to reduce cost and provide transport. Although cost and transport strategies demonstrated some success, they were not sustainable. Overall, organisations found it took longer than initially expected to successfully engage target populations, but that this was a necessary and valuable process.
  • Participation-performance tension and gender affect recreational sports clubs’ engagement with children and young people with diverse backgrounds and abilities, Spaaij R, Lusher D, Jeanes R, Farquharson K, Gorman S, Magee J, PLoS ONE, 14(4): e0214537, (2019). This mixed methods study investigated how diversity is understood, experienced and managed in junior sport. The study combined in-depth interviews (n = 101), surveys (n = 450) and observations over a three-year period. The results revealed that a focus on performance and competitiveness negatively affected junior sports clubs’ commitment to diversity and inclusive participation. Gender and a range of attitudes about diversity were also strongly related. On average, we found that those who identified as men were more likely to support a pro-performance stance, be homophobic, endorse stricter gender roles, and endorse violence as a natural masculine trait. In addition, those who identified as men were less likely to hold pro-disability attitudes. These findings suggest that the participation-performance tension and gender affect to what extent, and how, sports clubs engage children and young people with diverse backgrounds and abilities.
  • The relationship of sport participation to provision of sports facilities and socioeconomic status: a geographical analysis, Eime R, Harvey J, Charity M, Casey M, Westerbeek H and Payne W, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, (published online 22 January 2017). Participation rate was positively associated with provision of facilities, although this was complicated by SES and region effects. The findings of this study were based on a large cohort over a large geographical area. The findings are aligned with the majority of other researchers using more limited samples and areas. We have shown that there is a positive ecological association at the level of local government authorities (LGAs) between participation and facility provision. Moreover, we have shown that for some sports in one or other of metropolitan or non-metropolitan contexts, the association between participation and facility provision is confounded with the effects of socio-economic status (SES), while in other cases the association between participation and facility provision persists after adjustment for the effects of SES. With regard to the effects of SES in the two regions, in the metropolitan region higher levels of participation were associated with higher SES, however, the opposite was true for the non-metropolitan region. This is consistent with another recent Australian study that reported that, while non-metropolitan areas tended to have lower SES, participation in many team sports was higher in these areas, and there were very few sports or types of physical activity for which the rate of participation increased as SES increased. The present study found that within the metropolitan regions higher facility provision was related to higher SES for two sports, however, in non-metropolitan regions higher facility provision was related to lower SES for all sports.
  • Review of physical activity among Indigenous people, (PDF  - 1.0 MB), Gray C, Macniven R and Thomson N, Australian Indigenous Health Reviews, Number 13 (2013). For some Indigenous people, concepts of space, time and activities differ from those for most non-Indigenous people. Therefore, physical activity guidelines that specify regular frequency, duration and types of activity can be inappropriate for some Indigenous people. This report provides a summary of the most recent statistical data on the participation of Indigenous people in physical activity and sport.
  • Social inequalities in young children’s sport participation and outdoor play, Wijtzes A, Jansen W, Bouthoorn S, Pot N, Hofman A, Jaddoe V and Raat H, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, Volume 11 (2014). This study looked at the associations of family socioeconomic position (SEP) and ethnic background with children’s sports participation and outdoor play. Data was taken from 4726 ethnically diverse 6-year-old children participating in the Generation R Study conducted in the Netherlands. Children’s sports participation was associated with maternal and/or paternal educational level, maternal employment status, and household income. Families with low SEP indicators predicted less sports participation. Children’s outdoor play was associated with household income only; children from low income households were more likely to play less than one hour per day. All ethnic minority children were significantly more likely to not participate in sports and outdoor play when compared with native Dutch children.
  • Socio-ecological predictors of participation and dropout in organised sports during childhood, Vella S, Cliff D and Okely A, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, Volume 11(62), (2014). This study looked at the socio-ecological determinants of participation and dropout in organised sports in a nationally-representative sample of Australian children. Seven variables at age 8 were shown to positively predict participation in organised sports at age 10, these included: (1) sex (boy); (2) fewer people in household; (3) higher household income; (4) main language spoken at home (English); (5) higher parental education; (6) child taken to a sporting event; and (7) access to a specialist physical education teacher during primary school. Four variables predicted dropout from organised sports by age 10, these included: (1) lower household income; (2) main language spoken at home (non-English); (3) lower parental education; and (4) child not taken to a sporting event. The interplay between sex (at least for boys), socioeconomic indicators, and parental support is important in predicting children’s participation in organised sports. Therefore, multilevel and multicomponent interventions designed to promote participation and prevent dropout should address these factors.
  • Why children join and stay in sports clubs: case studies in Australian, French and German swimming clubs, Light R, Harvey S and Memmert D, Sport, Education and Society, Volume 18(4), (2013). This article builds upon research on youth sport clubs conducted from a socio-cultural perspective by reporting on a study that inquired into the reasons why children aged 9–12 joined swimming clubs in France, Germany and Australia. Comprising three case studies it employed a mixed method approach with results considered within the framework of Côté and colleagues' Development Model of Sport Participation. It identifies the importance of parents, the social dimensions of experience in the clubs and of appropriate competition in attracting the children to the clubs and keeping them there. 

Geographic

Sport in Rural and Regional Australia

Community size and infrastructure (which may also influence organisational capacity) can impact upon sport participation. Prevailing social and cultural characteristics of a community can have a great influence on which sports are popular.  Some research suggests that 'mid-size' communities create a better environment for sport participation than either very small or large communities.  However, the research is ongoing because of the multiple social factors involved and their interaction.  

AusPlay survey results indicate that participation rates are generally higher, for both adults and children, in major cities and fall progessively in order of remoteness (inner regional, outer regional, remote or very remote). 

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.

Report iconReports

  • AusPlay Survey (AusPlay) is a large scale, rolling, 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. Results are updated two times per year, in April and October. 

Research iconResearch 

  • Community size and sport participation across 22 countries, (PDF  - 100 KB), Balish S, Rainham D and Blanchard C, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, (published online 8 December 2014). Data from 22 countries (including Australia) was analysed to determine the association between community size and the rate of individual and team sport participation and physical activity participation. The analysis provides evidence to support the hypothesis that communities that have between 10,000 and 100,000 residents provide a context in which individuals are more likely to participant in sport, especially team sport. In addition, this study found that the size of communities was unrelated to physical activity participation. Although the individual participation rates vary across countries, the relationship stays the same. More research into community size and sport participation in more diverse contexts is required to explain this relationship. The authors point out that this study has limitations; it employed only two relatively crude (i.e., dichotomous) measures of community size (10,000 to 100,000 and less than 10,000), leaving open the possibility that more specific classifications could better explain the associations.
  • Drivers of Participation, Sport Australia, (accessed 18 April 2019). A toolkit to support organisations to design and deliver participation outcomes, to get more Australians moving more often. The toolkit covers drivers and barriers of participation, trends that impact sport participation, and planning methodology.
  • Participation in physical activity and sport: Associations with socio-economic status and geographical location (PDF  - 830 KB), Eime R, Harvey J, Charity M, Thompson H and Payne W, Sport and Recreation Spatial report, (2014). This research looked at the relationship between participation rates, frequency of participation, and participation specific contexts in relation to socio-economic status and remoteness of location. There were 95 different types of physical activity identified; the majority of these activities showed a statistically significant relationship between participation and socio-economic status. There were also some significant relationships among some activities between participation and remoteness.
  • Understanding the relationships between the physical environment and physical activity in older adults: a systematic review of qualitative studies, (PDF  - 34 KB), Moran M, Van Cauwenberg J, Hercky-Linnewiel R, Cerin E, Deforche B, Plaut P, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, (published online 17 July 2014). While physical activity (PA) provides many physical, social, and mental health benefits for older adults, they are the least physically active age group. This study provides a systematic review of qualitative studies exploring the potential impact of the physical environment to influence PA behaviours in older adults. Environmental factors that potentially influence older adults’ PA behaviours were categorised into five themes: (1) pedestrian infrastructure; (2) safety; (3) access to amenities; (4) aesthetics; and (5) environmental conditions. Environmental factors especially relevant to older adults that tended to emerge more frequently in studies were access to facilities and green open spaces with rest areas.

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Socio-economic

different types of balls on a green field

In Australia, and many other countries, individuals experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage – whether a low education level, low income, low-status occupation, or living in a socioeconomically disadvantaged neighbourhood – are less likely than those more advantaged segments of the population to engage in physical activity behaviours conducive to optimal health.

AusPlay survey results indicate that individuals from households with annual income of less than AU$40,000 have the lowest participation levels for both adults and children. Participation rates generally continue to rise in line with income, until another drop for individuals from households with annual incomes greater than AU$200,000.  

Additionally, adults who are employed (whether full, part-time or casual) are more likely to be physically active than those who are unemployed. Individuals who have completed tertiary education, or even completed high school, are more likely to be physically active than people who did not complete the highest level of school. 

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.

ReadingReading

  • Overcoming disparities in organized physical activity: findings from Australian community strategies, Smith B, Thomas M and Batras D, Health Promotion International, (published online 4 June 2015). This article examines the barriers to participation in sport and strategies used to overcome these barriers among disadvantaged groups. Sporting organisations received community funding from VicHealth’s Participation in Community Sport and Recreation Program (PICSAR) to adopt strategies allowing them to include more people from Indigenous, low socioeconomic and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, as well as persons with disabilities into their programs. Disadvantaged groups typically have lower levels of physical activity and poorer health outcomes compared to the overall population. Several barriers to participation were identified – high costs, lack of transport to activities, cultural differences, unwelcoming sporting environments at clubs, and lack of suitable facilities for people with disabilities. A number of successful strategies were put in place to overcome these barriers; including: employing staff from the priority groups; building communication and partnerships over time with community organisations; specific training for staff and volunteers; and modifying traditional activities to better suit participants. Various strategies were also put in place to reduce cost and provide transport. Although cost and transport strategies demonstrated some success, they were not sustainable. Overall, organisations found it took longer than initially expected to successfully engage target populations, but that this was a necessary and valuable process. 
  • Sport and Recreation Sector Event reveals Auckland’s socio-economic gap driving participation down, Aktive, (9 December 2019). Hosted by Aktive, in association with strategic partners Sport New Zealand and Auckland Council, more than 120 leaders from 90 different sport, recreation, health and community organisations attended the event, which featured the latest Active Citizens Worldwide research from leading global management consultancy Portas Consulting. This research shows that individuals from higher socio-economic backgrounds are more active through sport and active recreation, with Auckland however having the highest socio-economic gap of all Active Citizens Worldwide participating cities.
  • Our work to help people from deprived areas to get physically active, Sport England, (31 October 2019). Earlier this month we updated you on how the 35 projects to receive funding from our Tackling Inactivity and Economic Disadvantage have been getting on. In their first year they have engaged almost 5,000 people from lower socio-economic groups. Here we’re going to take a closer look at the impact some of these projects, as well as those working with similar groups of people but not receiving TIED funding, are having. 

Report iconReports

  • The AusPlay Survey (AusPlay) is a large scale, rolling 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. Results are updated two times per year, in April and October.  
  • Active Citizens Worldwide: annual report 2019 (PDF  - 10.9 MB), Active Citizens Worldwide, (2019). Now in the second year ACW works to provide compelling evidence from participating cities (Auckland, London, Singapore, Stockholm) to shed light on the value of sport and physical activity (economic, health, social) and the complex systemic interplay between socio-economics, demographics, policy, and sport/physical activity participation. Some highlights of the report include: Physically active individuals are: 6% happier; 28% more trusting of community: have 6% higher life satisfaction; and, 14% less psychologically distressed. Sport can also lead to more time spent with others. For every hour spend doing sport, 48 minutes are spent with other people; for non-sport exercise 1 hour=23 minutes spent with others. The report also highlights that well-off individuals are up to 1.7 times more likely to be active than those less well-off and the participation gap between men and women remains pronounced in all participating cities. 

Research iconResearch 

  • Children’s participation in organized sport and physical activities and active free play: Exploring the impact of time, gender and neighbourhood household income using longitudinal data, Cairney J, Joshi D, Kwan M, Hay J and Faught B, Sociology of Sport Journal, Volume 32(3), (2015). This study examines the associations among socioeconomic status (SES), aging, gender and sport and physical activity participation from late childhood (age 9 years) into adolescence (13 years). Subjects were 1158 boys (50.8% of the sample) and 1120 girls (49.2%) grade 4 students from Southern Ontario, Canada, schools. This study found that household income was a significant predictor of participation in organised sport/activity; the lower the household income the less participation. The SES impact on participation in organised sport was consistent throughout the age range (i.e. 9 to 13 years) for both boys and girls. In addition, SES had an impact upon active free play by girls, but not for the boys in this study; high SES girls participated in more active play while lower SES girls spent less time in active play. This relationship was not seen among the boys’ active play. The authors speculate that SES and gender factors may interact: adolescent girls from low SES families may be involved in more domestic activities – leaving less time for discretionary physical activity, and; environmental factors and safety concerns may impact more on girls than boys.
  • Participation in physical activity and sport: Associations with socio-economic status and geographical location (PDF  - 830 KB), Eime R, Harvey J, Charity M, Thompson H and Payne W, Sport and Recreation Spatial report (2014). This research looked at the relationship between participation rates, frequency of participation, and participation specific contexts in relation to socio-economic status and remoteness of location. There were 95 different types of physical activity identified; the majority of these activities showed a statistically significant relationship between participation and socio-economic status. There were also some significant relationships among some activities between participation and remoteness.
  • The Social Correlates of Participation and Non-Participation by Adults. Mike Stratton, Lewis Conn, Charity Liaw and Lisa Conolly, Australian Bureau of Statistics, presented at the Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand (SMAANZ). Eleventh Annual Conference, 25-26 November 2005, Canberra. Through a multivariate logistic regression model, the authors quantify a number of associations between participation in sport, the socio-economic characteristics of participants and several other social indicators. The model estimates the likelihood of participation given the explanatory variables and so enables those with low levels of participation to be better defined. This in turn enables the development and targeting of policies aimed at increasing participation in sport and related physical activities.  
  • Sports and Health in America, (PDF  - 423 KB), 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.
  • Traversing myths and mountains: addressing socioeconomic inequities in the promotion of nutrition and physical activity behaviours, Ball K, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, Volume 12 (2015). Socioeconomic inequities are linked to both decreased participation in health promoting physical activity and greater sedentary behaviours. The impacts of socioeconomic disadvantage are evident across multiple populations and studies. This is a concern because socioeconomic inequities also impact upon the rate of obesity and many health outcomes. Yet there remains a dearth of evidence of the most effective means of addressing these inequities. People who experience disadvantage face multiple challenges to maintaining healthy behaviours, including participation in organised and social sport and health promoting physical activity. This paper addresses some on the challenges facing behavioural scientists.

Role models

picture of kids with Adam Goodes

A role model is a person whose behaviour, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people [Dictionary.com]. 

A common phrase, used in many spheres, is 'you can't be what you can't see'. The value of role models and role model programs is generally seen as their ability to demonstrate diversity, inclusion and to encourage preferred behaviours. Role model programs in sport and physical activity are often targeted towards children and groups with lower physical activity/sport participation including females, CaLD, indigenous and persons with disability in order to increase physical activity participation and address other broader community objectives (such as health, community development, crime or domestic violence reduction, etc.).  

Elite and/or high profile athletes are often identified as role models, and both positive and negative behaviours come under intense scrutiny. However, despite this common focus on elite athletes as role models, research suggests that people in our direct circle of family and relationshipsincluding teachers and coachescan have more positive and long-term impact. Parents in particular are generally the strongest role models for their children’s participation in organised sport. When both parents are active, their children are much more likely to be active. 

More information can also be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topic Engaging Parents in Sport

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.

ReadingReading

  • Australian kids need active, sporty parents (PDF  - 438 KB), Factsheet, Australian Sports Commission, AusPlay Survey (2017).
  • Elite footballers as role models: promoting young women’s football participation. Dunn, C. Soccer and Society, Volume 17(6), pp.843-856, (2016). Reports the experiences and thoughts of elite female footballers in Great Britain in relation to role models. In particular, it discusses their views on how to encourage young women’s football participation from elite down to grass-roots levels.
  • The Importance of role models in making adolescent girls more active: A review of literature. Kirby J, Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit, (2009), University of Edinburgh. A review of the literature was carried out in order to help inform the sport and recreation sectors of the importance of role models in getting adolescent girls to be more active. A presentation was given to the Teenactive Research Group, October 2009, download presentation (PPT  - 1.1 MB).
  • Paralympian role models: media hype, political rhetoric or the real deal? Louise McCuaig, Senior Lecturer Health and Physical Education in Schools, The University of Queensland, The Conversation, (September 2016). Provides an overview of how the success of role models is often dependent on how 'relevant' they are to those observing them and how 'attainable' their achievements appear and provides anecdote to demonstrate how a Paralympic athlete has been so to a young boy.  
  • Parents Making Youth Sports a Positive Experience: Role Models, Daniel Francis Perkins, PennState Extension, (20 October 2017). The atmosphere set by organizations, parents, and coaches is a major factor in determining whether or not youth will have a positive experience in a sports program. This bulletin is written to assist parents in fostering a positive climate that enables children and youth involved in sports to enjoy them-selves and reach their full potential. It focuses on the benefits and risks of youth sports, discusses parents as role models, and provides practical tips for parents. 
  • Rio Paralympics 2016: Athletes find role-model status a tricky balance. Marc Lancaster, Yahoo Sports!, (7 September 2016). Short article which includes several Rio Paralympic athletes discussing the balance between being a role model and just themselves. 
  • Sports star endorsement works a treat on junk food packagingVictorian Health Promotion Foundation, (28 May 2013). A study undertaken by the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer (CBRC) at Cancer Council Victoria surveyed 1,300 children around 11 years of age and found that young boys were most influenced by celebrity endorsements from male athletes. The likelihood of boys choosing an unhealthy food was 65 per cent higher when it featured a sports celebrity endorsement.
  • Why do girls need athletic role models? SIRC Blog, (10 June 2015). When role models are mentioned in sport, the first thing that comes to mind are high profile celebrities. While positive role models can be found in amateur and professional sports, it's the people they see every day that make the biggest difference.

Report iconReports

  • The AusPlay Survey (AusPlay) is a large scale, rolling 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. Results are updated every six months. 
  • Culture, Media and Sport - Seventh Report. Chapter 4: Role Models in Sport, UK House of Commons, (12 July 2004). This report details submissions and evidence received from various sports organisations about the role of sport in creating/promoting role models in various areas including: influence of sporting heroes; appropriate demands on athletes (to be role models/heroes); promoting sport and physical activity; promoting wider objectives; education; sport and social exclusion; and setting examples. It concludes that sporting role models, and sport more generally, can promote highly laudable examples and values in terms of elite sporting achievement, the general benefits of sporting participation and other personal development goals. The Government has allocated expenditure to initiatives exploiting these links and many sports—football in particular—have given evidence of significant investments, and the meeting of considerable demands, from resources of their own. We believe that recently-retired sportsmen and -women—with good track records and high public profiles—represent a pool of talent with particular potential for meeting the demands of new 'role-modelling' initiatives.
  • The impact of coaching on participants (PDF  - 1.9 MB), Hopkinson M, Sports Coach UK, (2014). This report presents the findings from the first year of a four-year study of the impact of coaching (and coaches) upon sports participation. The current results provide evidence to support the belief that quality coaching can help bring people into sport, enhance their enjoyment, and increase how often they play and the likelihood of them staying involved. Key results from the survey identify how important quality coaching is. The report suggests that both adults and young people will have more positive playing experiences the higher the quality of their coach. The survey aimed to gather views from both people who are coached in their chosen sport, and those who play but do not receive coaching.
  • Role models for young people: What makes an effective role model program (PDF  - 232 KB). MacCallum, J. Beltman, S. Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies, (2000). This report provides a good understanding of who are role models and features that contribute to the effectiveness of role model programs.
  • Sporting success, role models and participation: a policy related review (PDF  - 223 KB), Lyle J, Sport Scotland, Research Report Number 101, (2009). This extensive review found that the impact of sporting role models on participation has not been robustly proved.

Research iconResearch  

  • Alcohol consumption in sport: The influence of sporting idols, friends and normative drinking practices. O'Brien KS, Kolt GS, Webber A, Hunter JA, Drug and Alcohol Review, Volume 29(6), pp.676-83, (2010). High profile athletes are often touted as negative role models when it comes to drinking. Contrary to expectations high-profile sportspeople were not perceived to be heavy drinkers and their perceived drinking was not predictive of others drinking. Friends' and normative drinking practices were predictors of drinking.
  • Australian athletes' health behaviours and perceptions of role modelling and marketing of unhealthy products (PDF  - 93 KB). Grunseit A, MacNiven R, Orr R, Grassmayr M, Kelly B, Davies D, Colagiuri S, Bauman AE, Health Promotion Journal of Australia, Volume 23(1), pp.63-9, (2012). Most athletes surveyed supported a role for athletes in promoting physical activity and obesity prevention, and disagreed that athletes should promote unhealthy foods and alcohol (73.9%). 
  • Changing associations of Australian parents’ physical activity with their children’s sport participation: 1985 to 2004, Dollman J, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Volume 34(6), (2010). In 1985 a group 179 girls and 211 boys, aged 9-15 years were surveyed on their sports participation, with attention to the perceptions and participation of their parents. A similar group of children from the same school were surveyed in 2004. In 1985, there were no differences in sport participation between those with both, either or neither parent active. In 2004, sport participation was highest among boys and girls with both parents active. These results underscore the current role of parents as socialising agents for physical activity.
  • Changing lives? Critical evaluation of a school-based athlete role model intervention. Armour K, Duncombe R, Sport, Education and Society,, Volume 17(3), pp.381-403, (2012). This article outlines an evaluation of the changing LIVES ‘athlete mentor’ programme in the UK. This was a school-based programme using successful sports people to deliver a series of motivational activities to young people who were identified as being disengaged or disaffected in some way.  It is argued that there should be greater conceptual clarity and a stronger evidence base supporting the design and delivery of interventions in schools that seek to use sports people as role models (or mentors) for young people.
  • The contractual and ethical duty for a professional athlete to be an exemplary role model: bringing the sport and sportsperson into unreasonable and unfair disrepute. Jonson, PT, Lynch, S and Adair,D., Australian and New Zealand Sports Law Journal, Volume 8(1), pp.55-88, (2013). Elite athletes are generally assigned as being a role model by virtue of moral clauses in their employment contracts. The authors argue that athlete contracts are often vague or broad regarding role model expectations. It recommends moral clauses in contracts should be reframed  and athletes should be assisted in understanding and appreciating the nature of moral clauses. In addition, there should be public discussion on the designation and expectation of the athlete as a role model to ensure reasonableness and propriety of treatment for our athletes. The article utilises Australian cases and athlete contracts to discuss this issue.
  • ‘David or Mia? The influence of gender on adolescent girls' choice of sport role models’ (PDF  - 95 KB). Adriaanse, J, Crosswhite, J, Women's Studies International Forum, Volume 31(5), pp.383-389, (2008). This study of Australian adolescent girls (n=357) found girls overwhelmingly choose a female role model. However, when questioned about role models from the sports environment, the percentage of female role models decreased.
  • Drunken Role Models: Rescuing Our Sporting Exemplars. Jones C, Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, Volume 5(4), (2011). The author argues that although bad role models are grabbing the headlines in relation to problematic drinking practices, there are good role models in sport who should be lauded as exemplars of good character living a worthwhile sporting life. Such characters can show those inside and outside the practice community a more responsible and considerate approach to alcohol.
  • Esther Phiri and the Moutawakel effect in Zambia: an analysis of the use of female role models in sport-for-development. Marianne Meier and Martha Saavedra, Sport in Society, Volume 12(9), pp.1158-1176, (2009). In the field of sport and development, ‘role models’ have been invoked as an important element to increase participation. Based on a case study of Zambian women's sports and the boxer, Esther Phiri, this essay examines the discourse around the use of ‘role models’ and begins to elaborate a theory around their use specifically in the experience of sport-in-development projects and programs which have gender-specific outcomes.
  • I would like to be like her/him: are athletes role-models for boys and girls? Biskup C, Pfister G, European Physical Education Review, Volume 5(3), pp.199-218, (199). This study examines theoretical considerations of the meaning of role-models and idols in general and for young people in particular. It found that the huge majority of idols, especially of sport heroes, are men, and it is boys who admire sport stars. In addition, a high percentage of boys named sporting heroes or 'action stars' whom they admired because of their strength, aggression and their ability to get things done. In contrast, for the girls interviewed, sport stars did not have the function of role-models. They admired the stars and starlets of the movie and music scene. 
  • The inspirational effect of sporting achievements and potential role models in football: a gender-specific analysis. Wicker, P., Frick, B. Managing Sport and Leisure, Volume 21(5), pp.265-282, (2016). This study examines the trickle-down effect of potential role models and sporting achievements, respectively. Specifically, it examined the inspirational effect of same-sex and opposite-sex role models on male and female participation in German amateur football. Longitudinal data on German football club memberships and amateur teams were collected for 21 regional football associations over a 15-year-period. The results found that sporting success does not automatically lead to the development of positive role models and inspirational effects.
  • The inspirational function of role models for sport participation and development (PDF  - 52 KB). De Croock S,  De Bosscher V, van Bottenburg M, European Association of Sport Management Congress 2012 Abstract Book, (2012). This research shows that only 10% of elite athletes have been inspired by other elite athletes in order to start with their current sport. Mostly they were encouraged by their parents (59%) and friends (28%) to practice their current sport.
  • Kwementyaye (Charles) Perkins: Indigenous Soccer Player and Australian Political Activist. Daryl Adair and Megan Stronach, The International Journal of the History of Sport, Volume 31(7), pp.778–794, (2014). This paper takes a biographical approach, pinpointing key experiences and influences in Perkins’ life and his journey in sport, education and politics. There is an emphasis on how sport shaped his thinking about society, and, particularly in his later years, his assertion that sport should not simply reflect the status quo, it should be used by those on the margins to agitate for change. 
  • Professional Athletes and their Duty to be Role Models (PDF  - 216 KB). Lynch, S., Adair, D., Jonson, P. Achieving Ethical Excellence in Ethical Issues in Organizations), pp.75 - 90, (2014).  The chapter considers understandings of sport, play and athleticism from an ethical perspective and examines their relationship to professionalism to determine the extent to which ethical imperatives can logically be upheld or undermined within the professional context. The chapter calls for recognition of the complexity of ethical decision-making in the context of professional sport and recommends that the training of professional athletes should prepare them to deal with this complexity.
  • Profiling sport role models to enhance initiatives for adolescent girls in physical education and sport, Vescio J, Wilde K, and Crosswhite J, European Physical Education Review, Volume 11, pp.153-170, (2005). This study involved the investigation of sport role models for adolescent girls in Australia. Results showed that a relatively small percentage of girls (8.4 percent) perceived a sports person to be their role model, with a large percentage of girls nominating a role model from the family (mother), peer or entertainment domains. The majority of girls with a sport role model described the model as female, under 40 years of age with a similar sporting background to themselves who display essential masculine and feminine qualities.
  • The Relevance of sporting role models in the lives of adolescent girls (PDF  - 88 KB). Vescio J, Crosswhite J, Wilde K, Paper submitted to the ACHPER Healthy Lifestyles Journal, (Revised November 2003). This paper challenges the idea that elite athletes are relevant role models for all teenage girls. Results showed that a relatively small percentage of girls perceived a sports person to be their role model, with a large percentage of girls nominating a family member or friend as their role model.
  • Role model, hero or champion? Children's views concerning role models. Bricheno, P. and Thornton, M.E., Educational Research, Volume 49(4), pp.383-396, (2007). This study asked children, aged from 10 to 16 years, from four English schools in different socio-economic environments, about their role models, and about what they regarded as important attributes for a role model. The responses indicated that both girls and boys named relatives as most important role models more often than they named anyone else. In second ranking, girls named friends and boys named footballers. Overall, 31.7% of pupils chose one or both parents as their most important role model.
  • Role models in sports – Can success in professional sports increase the demand for amateur sport participation? Muttera, F., Pawlowskib, T, Sport Management Review, Volume 17(3), (2014). This paper examines whether the success of professional athletes can spill over on the demand for amateur sport participation. It reviews the empirical evidence of sporting role models and their motivational effect on sport participation. The authors conclude that the effect of professional sports on sport participation is not conclusive.
  • Role models, sporting success and participation: a review of sports coaching's ancillary roles (PDF  - 6.0 MB). Lyle, John, International Journal of Coaching Science, Volume 7(2), p25, (2013). Appropriate role models such as coaches are essential elements in a high quality sporting environment: these will contribute, along with many other factors, to the perception of sport as an attractive, attainable and rewarding experience. This review suggests that coaches should emphasise qualities of determination, hard work, coping and moral behaviour. However, coaches should also take care when using other athletes as inspirational examples or models of appropriate behaviour, and bear in mind their own status as role models to younger impressionable athletes. 
  • Role models of Australian female adolescents: A longitudinal study to inform programmes designed to increase physical activity and sport participation. Young, J.  et. al., European Physical Education Review, Volume 21(4), pp.451-466, (2015). This study examined role models of adolescent girls and their influence on physical activity by surveying 732 girls in Years 7 and 11 from metropolitan and non-metropolitan regions of Victoria, Australia. Survey questions included whether they had a role model and if they did, the gender, age, type and sporting background of that individual. Survey found the majority of participants nominated a family member, peer or celebrity sportsperson as their role model who was female, played sport and was less than 50 years of age. Non-metropolitan-based adolescent girls, and Year 11 adolescent girls, were more likely to select a role model who they knew played sport than metropolitan-based adolescent girls and Year 7 girls respectively.  This study highlighted that family members, peers and sports people should be included as role models in programmes designed to increase physical activity.
  • Sports role models and their impact on participation in physical activity: a literature review (PDF  - 232 KB). Payne W, Reynolds M, Brown S, Flemming A, for VicHealth, (2003). This extensive review of 95 peer-reviewed articles examined the extent of evidence for the hypotheses that: (i) sports people act as role models and have a positive impact on individuals and the broader community; (ii) there is a link between sporting success and wider health improvements. The conclusions included: (i) Role model programmes should be seen as a continuum from a single exposure to a long term mentoring approach. (ii) There is ample theoretical evidence to support the idea for conducting role model programs. (iii) Role model programmes should encompass parents, teachers and other significant adults, as well as celebrities and sports people. (iv) Role models are not always positive; they can be seen to promote negative social images, beliefs and behaviours. (v) There are significant gender differences in the way athletes are viewed as role models, with males being more likely to identify with successful athletes while females tend to identify with parents. (vi) The most effective role model programmes are those that focus on developing a long term, mentor relationship, particularly for individuals from socially disadvantaged and "at risk" groups.
  • Using Role Models to Help Celebrate Paralympic Sport. Mastro J,  Ahrens C,  Statton N, The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, Volume 83(4), (2012). The article discusses ways in which role models from disability sports can be implemented into a Paralympic physical education unit. According to the article, these role models can be used in a variety of ways including as speakers, demonstrating Paralympic sports, and helping teach the sport to students.
  • The value of female sporting role models. Meiera, M. Sport in Society, Volume 18(8), pp.968-982, (2015). This article examines the evidence in relation to the value and functions of female sporting role models. Areas discussed included: participation, leadership, advocacy, gender stereotypes, inspiration, ethics, safeguarding and prevention, media and business and giving back to sport. The author argues that rather than just increasing female SRMs in numbers, attention should be dedicated to the selection variety that encompasses the functions of role models.
  • Villains, fools or heroes? Sports stars as role models for young people. Lines G, Leisure Studies, Volume 20(4), pp.2853-03, (2001). This article discusses ways in which sport stars are constructed as role models for young people. It cites instancing examples from the sports calendar of the ‘summer of sport’ 1996, in its discussion of the media construction of sports stars as villains, fools or heroes. It identifies the gender differentiated readings of sports stars as heroes and heroines and concludes that the ways in which media critics accord hero and role model status does not necessarily reflect the opinions of young people. 
  • Why do governments invest in elite sport? A polemic, Grix J and Carmichael F, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, Volume 4(1), (2012). This paper examines the reasons generally given by advanced capitalist countries for investing in elite sport. While the focus of this paper is on the United Kingdom’s sport policy, other capitalist nations are discussed, including Australia and Canada. The authors focus on the proposition put forward by these governments that, “elite sport success promotes participation among the population”. Given the nature of certain assumptions, the discussion around the link between elite sporting success and grassroots participation is often controversial and circular arguments ensue. Although significant research supports the link between sport participation and personal health and wellbeing; extending this logic to sport policy and population outcomes is problematic. The proposed rationale is termed the ‘double pyramid theory’ – that is, if a high percentage of the population participate in sport there are bound to be more Olympic champions; and conversely, the existence of champion role models encourages grassroots participation. The authors conclude that, based on evidence from existing research, this position cannot be substantiated.

Video iconVideos

Organisational capacity

future-start button

A strong and growing participation and membership base is critically important to sporting organisations in terms of attracting investment and ensuring sustainability. 

On-going participation in sport is usually contingent upon satisfaction with the overall service provided. This has implications for the standard of, and accessibility to, facilities, as well as the capacity of a sporting organisation to provide coaching, officiating, and management support. Satisfaction and continued participation is also linked to a positive, healthy, and inclusive culture within the sporting environment. 

A Swimming Australia market research survey (unpublished) looked at swimming participation as a ‘value for money’ proposition by parents. The most prominent reasons parents gave for encouraging their children to participate in competitive swimming were: (1) swimming is a safe and healthy sport; (2) swimming offers a high level of personal satisfaction; and (3) swimming is a life-long activity. In contrast, reasons for dissatisfaction with the sport of swimming were: high training costs; competition entry fees; and poor quality coaching and facilities. 

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.

ReadingReading

  • 7 Benefits of Team Sports [infographic], Skateboard Guide, (2018). Provides a brief overview of some of the key benefits that can come from playing team sports. 
  • Culture of competition discourages some kids from sport, Victoria University media release, (6 May 2019). A study of Aussie sports clubs finds that a culture of competitiveness is preventing kids from diverse backgrounds and abilities from participating in junior sport. The research also showed that many clubs were uncertain about the concept and how it related to them, or how to actively promote diversity and social inclusion. Some other key findings included: Diversity was often viewed as diverting resources from a club’s core business, which revolved around organising teams and improving playing skills; Clubs that actively promoted diversity were generally regarded by coaches and parents from outside clubs as not serious clubs, and suitable only for children who were ‘no good’ at sport; Men at clubs that focused on competition above participation were, on average, more likely to be homophobic, endorse stricter gender roles, enforce violence as a natural masculine trait, and were less likely to hold pro-disability attitudes.
  • Inclusion and diversity - what can you do? Play by the Rules, (accessed 20 March 2019). There are a number of steps that a club can take to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all participants.
  • Making sporting clubs healthy and welcoming environments: A strategy to increase participation, Eime R, Payne W and Harvey J, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Volume 11(2), (2008). Sporting clubs are an ideal setting to promote community-wide participation in physical activity. This study explored the factors affecting the development of supportive environments as a mechanism to increase participation in club sport. Although State Sporting Association Executive Officers believe that the creation of a supportive environment will facilitate sporting club membership, the data collected from affiliated clubs indicate incomplete development of this focus area because of limited club capacity and limited support to clubs from state or national sporting organisations. An overriding factor affecting the capacity of clubs to enact change was the presence or absence of planning at high levels with the sport. Clubs that do not offer a safe and unwelcoming environment are unlikely to increase their membership.
  • MarketingNSW Office of Sport, (accessed 20 March 2019). Resources for sports clubs in marketing basics, marketing plans, media and social media. 
  • One size does not fit all: implications of sports club diversity for their effectiveness as a policy tool and for government support, Nichols G and James M, Managing Leisure, Volume 13, Issue 2 (2008). This article looked at the structure of netball clubs in England and examined the tension between government policy to promote sports participation through sports clubs that use more formal management practices, and the possibility that this may ignore the contribution made by smaller clubs and their distinctive cultures.

Report iconReports

  • More people, more active, more often (PDF  - 313 KB), Sport and Recreation Spatial Research Report (November 2014). This report provides an analysis of sport facilities in Victoria. There were considerable differences noted in the provision of facilities, per player and per population, across Victorian local government areas (LGAs). There was a direct relationship between the provision of courts per 1000 persons and usage (i.e. high rates of participation for high court density and lower participation rate when fewer courts are provided).

Research iconResearch

  • Correlates of youth sport attrition: A review and future directions, Balisha S, Rainhama D, Blancharda C and McLaren C, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, (published online 21 April 2014). Evidence suggests that sport is a powerful context for promoting the health and well-being of youth. Given the potential benefits of youth sport, this study sought to identify correlates (i.e. factors) of youth sport attrition and evaluate the strength of evidence for each correlate. One hundred forty-one distinct correlates were examined from published literature between 1982 and 2012. It was concluded that sport participation requires both opportunities and the motivation for youth to engage. Reasons for attrition were identified as being biological, intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional, community, and policy related. 
  • Delivering Sports Participation Legacies at the Grassroots Level: The Voluntary Sports Clubs of Glasgow 2014 (abstract), Macrae E, Journal of Sport Management, Volume 31 (2017). This study investigated the experiences of volunteer sport clubs (VSCs) in Glasgow, before, during, and after key mega-events, with a focus on the impact of both the 2012 London Olympics and, in particular, the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.  Data were collected through a mixture of open-ended questionnaires and interviews conducted with key representatives from 39 semiformal VSCs, to understand their ability and commitment to deliver on the participation legacy goals of these mega-events. Following Glasgow 2014, Sport Scotland released figures showing that between 2011 and 2015 there was an 11% increase in overall memberships (junior and senior) in the 17 Commonwealth Games sports, with some sports experiencing significant membership increases. Club membership is used to justify the legacy of major sporting events. This research identified key areas where focus should be placed when planning for any form of sports participation legacy from future mega-events: (1) ensuring VSC capacity; (2) providing tools for VSCs to retain new members; and (3) visibility of VSCs during and after the mega events. This study found that 64% of the clubs surveyed said they would not have the capacity to sustain a significant increase in members; given limitations in facilities, coaching, volunteers, safety considerations, etc. There appears to be few contingency plans in place to ensure that potential members have an alternative pathway to follow, and do not simply fall away from the sport. Although clubs could offer information and guidance, they were generally unable to offer full membership to every newcomer. The initial enthusiasm sparked by the Games could be lost, thus perpetuating the participation ‘spike phenomenon’ experienced during mega events. It remains to be seen if participation numbers among VSCs in Scotland can be sustained. Policy makers continue to champion the idea that the trickle-down effect of hosting a mega event will encourage a rise in post-event sport participation, but the evidence suggests that there is a greater need for localised strategies and initiatives to be set in place to encourage any sustained positive impact on participation.
  • Participation-performance tension and gender affect recreational sports clubs’ engagement with children and young people with diverse backgrounds and abilities, Spaaij R, Lusher D, Jeanes R, Farquharson K, Gorman S, Magee J, PLoS ONE, 14(4): e0214537, (2019). This mixed methods study investigated how diversity is understood, experienced and managed in junior sport. The study combined in-depth interviews (n = 101), surveys (n = 450) and observations over a three-year period. The results revealed that a focus on performance and competitiveness negatively affected junior sports clubs’ commitment to diversity and inclusive participation. Gender and a range of attitudes about diversity were also strongly related. On average, we found that those who identified as men were more likely to support a pro-performance stance, be homophobic, endorse stricter gender roles, and endorse violence as a natural masculine trait. In addition, those who identified as men were less likely to hold pro-disability attitudes. These findings suggest that the participation-performance tension and gender affect to what extent, and how, sports clubs engage children and young people with diverse backgrounds and abilities.

resources iconResources

  • Drivers of Participation, Sport Australia, (accessed 18 April 2019). A toolkit to support organisations to design and deliver participation outcomes, to get more Australians moving more often. The toolkit covers drivers and barriers of participation, trends that impact sport participation, and planning methodology. 

Video iconClearinghouse Videos

  • 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). 
  • Staying ahead of the game in a fast changing world, Dr Amanda Green, Director People and Culture, PwC, Dominic Wall, Royal and Ancient Golf Club and Danni Di Toro, Vice Chair, APC Athlete’s Commission, Our Sporting Future conference, Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, QLD, (16 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). 
  • FitNSW 2016: Supporting local communities to move more, NSW Parliament House, Macquarie Street Sydney, (9 March 2016). 
  • Panel: Product development - new formats of sport, Anne-Marie Phippard - Head of Community, Tony Sherwill - Bowls Australia Ltd, Tim Klar - Athletics Australi, Facilitator - Kerry Turner - Manager Sport and Recreation NSW, Our Sporting Future conference, Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, QLD, (23 October 2015). 
  • 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) 
  • Capability building — membership is dead, Belinda Moore, Strategic Membership Solutions, Our Sporting Future 2013 (12 April 2013) 
  • 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) 

Video iconOther Videos

Coaching

team circle
Coaches at all levels exert great influence on their players/athletes and can play a significant role in maintaining participation in sport and physical activity at all ages. Their philosophy and method of coaching can shape attitudes, motivation, and impact upon participants wellbeing. Quality coaching not only delivers optimal physiological, technical, and tactical aspects of a sport, it provides experiences that hook participants (and their family) into a sport by providing appropriate contexts, activities, encouragement, and motivation in a safe and fun environment. 

Coaches can help participants, especially children, develop physical and social skills. Participants, of all ages, who receive quality coaching tend to have higher long-term participation rates than participants who aren't coached. 

The contrasting situation can also occur, the coach-participant relationship can sometimes produce conflict that serves as a trigger for leaving a sport or reducing participation.
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.

ReadingReading

Report iconReports 

  • The Impact of Coaching on Participants 2017, UK Coaching, (November 2017). This report presents the results from a four year study examining the experience of both adult and young participants who were either coached or not coached. Additional questions were added in the final year to focus on the reasons why people stop taking part in sport or physical activity. Participants were grouped into several market segments: active committed; active at risk; active returners; and inactive dropped out. Overall the results indicate that both adults and young people who are being coached are more likely to continue being committed to sport and physical activity, less likely to stop participating, and more likely to return to activity if they do stop (i.e. due to injury). However, the responses also demonstrate that people being coached are just as likely as those not being formally coached to think about stopping. Positive coach/participant relationships, and matching delivery to individual needs are important aspects for maintaining participation for all age groups. 
  • The impact of coaching on participants, Hopkinson M, Sports Coach UK (2014). This report presents the findings from the first year of a four-year study of the impact of coaching (and coaches) upon sports participation. The current results provide evidence to support the belief that quality coaching can help bring people into sport, enhance their enjoyment, and increase how often they play and the likelihood of them staying involved. Key results from the survey identify how important quality coaching is. The report suggests that both adults and young people will have more positive playing experiences the higher the quality of their coach. The survey aimed to gather views from both people who are coached in their chosen sport, and those who play but do not receive coaching.
  • Increasing Participation in Sport: The role of the coach, North J, Sports Coach UK (2007). The coach is uniquely positioned to establish sporting environments that emphasise enjoyment, encouragement, social support, goal setting and motivation. Research suggests that coaches contribute to the psychological and social development of participants, instilling confidence and contributing to lifelong involvement in sport.
  • ‘Member Retention and Acquisition’, Swimming Australia, (unpublished). Market research surveyed parents and swimmers to determine what factors influenced leaving the sport. In 2% of cases the reason cited was ‘issues with coaching’, and 6% responded that their reason for leaving the sport was too much emphasis on competition, which is a factor that a coach has some control over.
  • ‘Retaining More Kids for Longer’, Swimming Australia, (unpublished). Report found that coaches putting too much pressure on junior athletes was one of several triggers for leaving the sport. 
  • The Role of Coaching in Participation, Sports Coach UK, (March 2014). Report suggest that good coaches promote fun activities, provide encouragement, and help children develop physical and social skills within the sporting environment. Parents surveyed about their children’s participation in sport acknowledged the coach’s role in promoting confidence, social and physical development, and safety. Good coaches were identified as being able to tailor sporting environments to meet the needs of individuals and groups. It was identified that participants who received coaching tended to have higher long-term participation rates than participants who did not receive coaching. 

Research iconResearch

  • Drivers of Participation, Sport Australia, (accessed 18 April 2019). A toolkit to support organisations to design and deliver participation outcomes, to get more Australians moving more often. The toolkit covers drivers and barriers of participation, trends that impact sport participation, and planning methodology.
  • Role models, sporting success and participation: a review of sports coaching's ancillary roles (PDF  - 6.0 MB). Lyle, John, International Journal of Coaching Science, Volume 7(2), p25, (2013). Appropriate role models such as coaches are essential elements in a high quality sporting environment: these will contribute, along with many other factors, to the perception of sport as an attractive, attainable and rewarding experience. This review suggests that coaches should emphasise qualities of determination, hard work, coping and moral behaviour. However, coaches should also take care when using other athletes as inspirational examples or models of appropriate behaviour, and bear in mind their own status as role models to younger impressionable athletes.  

National Sporting Organisation (NSO) case studies

In 2011 Australian Sailing (formerly Yachting Australia) surveyed nearly 30,000 people, including current and past members, and conducted focus group meetings with people not currently in the sport. The report Yachting Australia, Product Positioning and Brand Strategy provided a number of insights to help inform future strategies and programs to increase membership. Key points from the report included:

  • Sailing ranks relatively low in the public perception of Australian sports; 34th among all sports.
  • The perception that sailing is an ‘exclusive’ sport that is not very accessible. Yacht Clubs were generally perceived as not particularly welcoming to younger members.
  • On average, the starting age for sailing participation was much older than for other sports with established junior programs.
  • Primary and secondary school-age children and young families expressed a higher level of ‘interest’ in sailing, as compared to actual participation rates. This provides an opportunity to convert interest into future participation.
  • Relaxation and enjoyment were consistently reported as reasons for participation in sailing among both current sailors and those expressing a future interest in sailing. New participants were primarily interested in a social, relaxed activity; while longer-standing participants tended to place more importance on competition.

The main barrier to participation in sailing was the perceived cost, including factors such as boat ownership; maintenance; storage costs; and annual club membership fees. The cost of participation was perceived as too expensive, especially for a family.

The intended outcomes from this study included developing strategies that can be implemented to address perceived and actual barriers to participation at both national and local levels.

  • Improve the image of clubs and make them more welcoming and inclusive.
  • Implement programs that help to reduce costs, such as providing club boats and promoting crewing opportunities.
  • Help reduce the initial commitment of club membership with strategies such as introductory, flexible, and concessional memberships.
  • Increase the emphasis on relaxed social racing, rather than competition. Engage new participants in club social and networking activities.
  • Reduce the time commitment of members by offering shorter forms of sailing activity.
  • Improve information and communication between clubs and prospective new members. Interested persons often don’t know where to go or where to seek information when they consider joining a club. An effort must be made by clubs to communicate the entry and retention pathways. Positive messages must highlight the key attributes of the sport which make sailing adventurous, friendly and fun.

In 2010 Bowls Australia conducted the first comprehensive census of its membership, facilities, and capacity to grow their sport. The census was replicated annually until 2016. Bowls is one of the most popular sports in Australia, but membership statistics have shown a gradual but consistent decline over the past 30 years. However, this decrease in formal club membership has been offset by recent growth in social, corporate and other non-member based programs (e.g. school programs). It appears that Australia’s time poor population is seeking compact or packaged forms of recreation. Therefore, Bowls Australia has adopted appropriate strategies embracing flexible formats and social outcomes. The 2010 census showed that Bowls membership was concentrated in older adult age groups. Bowls Australia recognised that an opportunity existed to introduce new programs targeting youth and younger adults.

Jack Attack’ was one program introduced to cater to a ‘younger’ adult market and attempt to bridge the gap between social and competitive players. The concept is similar to programs offered by other sports; it features a shortened format (e.g. such as twenty20 cricket and fast4 tennis), 'powerplays' that allow doubling scores and tiebreakers if required. The non-intensive format appeals to social players, party groups and corporate events.

'Jr Jack Attack' was introduced to appeal to the child/primary school market. It’s designed to enable school children to participate in an engaging format, which is both fun and inclusive. Importantly, it can be conducted on a range of surfaces including greens, carpets, concrete, wooden floors and just about anything else that is flat, eliminating the restrictions of requiring a bowling green to introduce new audiences to the sport. Jr Jack Attack has been offered as part of the Sport Australia 'Sporting Schools' program since 2015.

There is also a good argument that there needs to be another level in-between Jr. Jack Attack and Jack Attack as part of Bowls Australia’s long term vision, and this will be implemented over time. It is also likely that Jr. Jack Attack will evolve into a more structured children’s competition program as part of an athlete development pathway.

On the competitive side of bowls, a mens and women's 'Emerging Jackaroos' squad now serves as a feeder program to the high performance structure. 

  • National Bowls Census, Bowls Australia, (accessed 21 March 2019). Information on the Census and links to all of the reports from 2010-2016.  

Over the period 2010 to 2016, regular bowls participation (i.e. identified as 4+ playing opportunities) increased by 3.6% and participation remained highest in the 60-74 age-group. The number of members competing regularly in ‘Pennant’ competition continued to decline. However, social and schools participation increased 16.5% over the same period. 

Clearly, population distribution (urban, regional and rural) impacts upon bowls facilities and membership, as well as the competing influence of other sports’ facilities. Incorporating a local needs-based approach that is built around market segmentation was a key part of Bowls Australia’s Strategic Plan 2013 to 2017. In January 2018 Bowls Australia launched a new strategic plan, Bowls Unleashed: 2018-2022 Strategic Plan which continues to focus on engaging Australians socially or competitively across their lifetime. 

In 2012 Tennis Australia released a strategic framework to guide the development of tennis towards 2020. The action areas of the national strategy highlighted in this document are: (1) better planning; (2) more and better national infrastructure; and (3) better management practices.

Ultimately, these actions will result in more people playing tennis, more often. It is hoped that this will produce more tennis champions, more devoted fans, and healthier communities.

The transformation of tennis began when Tennis Australia engaged the Gemba Group to conduct market research to better understand the current status of the sport. A national survey of over 8,300 people, aged 5 to 75 years, from all capital cities and regional areas was conducted. The resulting report ‘Tennis Participation in Australia 2010’ revealed that Tennis ranked third in recreational participation (behind walking and swimming) and that participation was evenly distributed among males and females and across geographic location. The highest participation was concentrated among children 5-15 years ages, and participation rates declined significantly post school-age and then flatten out for adults.  Other key findings included:

  • Identification of a huge latent demand to participate in tennis.
  • Social and fitness aspects of participation are seen as the major drivers to play tennis.
  • Time commitment to a season of play is seen as the major barrier to organised play.
  • Preferred playing formats are social tennis, followed by coaching programs, and weekly competitive programs.
  • 80% of current players entered the participation pathway before the age of 16 years.
  • 60% of current players will play year around, with seasonal variations due to climate and available indoor facilities.
  • 66% of current participants prefer a ‘pay for play’ model to access tennis facilities.
  • Membership in a tennis club increases with regularity of play.

Providing tennis facilities that offer different court surfaces for player development and delivery of a variety of programs presents particular challenges to Tennis Australia (i.e. water restrictions and environmental conditions, etc.). An infrastructure master plan for each State and Territory jurisdiction has been rolled out, along with various assistance schemes by Tennis Australia to help stakeholders develop or redevelop infrastructure.

The development and implementation of the ‘MLC Hot Shots’ and ‘Cardio Tennis’ programs have addressed participation needs at opposite ends of the participation continuum. Engaging children in a fun and age-appropriate tennis experience and drawing adults back into tennis to achieve their social and fitness objectives.

Statistics from 2017-2018 highlight the impact of the Hot Shots program with over 543,000 participants, a 41% year-on-year increase. As part of Sport Australia's 'Sporting Schools' program Tennis Hot Shots was delivered in more than 2,700 primary schools and 117 secondary schools (program started in 2018). Cardio Tennis had 5,457 participants in the same period. 

Individually and collectively the strategies and programs of Tennis Australia have been able to make a positive impact upon participation numbers.


In 2019 the International Tennis Federation (ITF) published the first Global Tennis Report 2019. The 2019 Report is designed to serve as a benchmark enabling the ITF to measure the impact of investment in growing and retaining participation in the sport. It will also support the targeting of future investment in line with the priorities of the ITF2024 strategy, growing tennis where it is most needed and ensuring the long-term growth and sustainability of tennis for future generations. Member nations are also provided with valuable data to devise strategies to increase participation and develop talent.

International practice

The challenges faced by Australian governments (federal, state/territory, local) in promoting a culture of greater physical activity among the population are not unique. Globally the issue of increasing physical inactivity, and its health and economic ramifications, is of great concern.  

Global Observatory for Physical Activity (GoPA)

The Global Observatory for Physical Activity (GoPA) was launched in 2014 to provide information related to physical (in)activity as a public health issue. The main resource provided are standardised country cards, based on common indicators and sources. The cards allow cross-country comparisons and provide data for countries to initiate or improve standards, policies, program development, and evaluation.   

Indicators include: general country information (such as population size, life expectancy, literacy, socioeconomic indicators); physical activity prevalence; estimated physical inactivity health burden and related mortality; national physical activity plan; physical activity surveillance; and research in physical activity.  There were over 200 Country Cards available in 2018 with more planned. 

Australia was ranked 2nd for physical activity research worldwide, contributing 8.46% of the total research worldwide. The United States was ranked 1st, contributing 25.31%. The Country card also highlighted that Australia did not currently have a national physical activity plan, although it does have a national survey; that less than 50% of people over the age of 15 years met physical activity guidelines (42% of females and 45% of males); and that Australia was slightly above the world average for 'deaths related to physical inactivity' with 10.1% in Australia, and 9% average worldwide. More information, and other Country Cards, are available from the GoPA website.  
  • Australian Country CardGlobal Observatory for Physical Activity, (2013)
  • The Lancet Physical Activity Observatory: Monitoring a 21st Century Pandemic, Hallal P and Ramirez A, Research in Exercise Epidemiology, Volume 17, Number 1 (2015). This project tracks physical activity surveillance, research and policy worldwide.
  • 127 Steps toward a more active world (PDF  - 4.2 MB), Pratt M, Ramiriz A, Martins R, Bauman A, Heath G, Kohl H, Lee I, Powell K and Hallal P, Journal of Physical Activity and Health, Volume 12 (2015). The Lancet Physical Activity Observatory released the first ever comprehensive country-by-country report on the status of physical activity in 2015. The report looked at physical activity surveillance, research, and policies among 127 countries. The countries surveyed account for 81% of the world’s population. It’s estimated that physical inactivity accounts for more than 5 million deaths each year globally and the economic burden of this mortality is spread across both developed and developing countries. As physical activity has moved into the mainstream of public health, the quantity and quality of global research has grown. In 2013, papers on physical activity from 105 countries were published. However, about half of all scientific publications on physical activity came from only 6 countries (listed in descending order of the number of publications): (1) United States; (2) Australia; (3) Canada; (4) United Kingdom; (5) Spain; and (6) Germany. The leading 20 countries accounted for 82% of global physical activity research. Further, 103 countries have initiated public health efforts that address physical inactivity as evidenced by inclusion of physical activity guidelines and policies within their national public health plans.


Active Citizens Worldwide

  • Active Citizens Worldwide: annual report 2019 (PDF  - 10.9 MB), Active Citizens Worldwide, (2019). Now in the second year ACW works to provide compelling evidence from participating cities (Auckland, London, Singapore, Stockholm) to shed light on the value of sport and physical activity (economic, health, social) and the complex systemic interplay between socio-economics, demographics, policy, and sport/physical activity participation. Some highlights of the report include: Physically active individuals are: 6% happier; 28% more trusting of community: have 6% higher life satisfaction; and, 14% less psychologically distressed. Sport can also lead to more time spent with others. For every hour spend doing sport, 48 minutes are spent with other people; for non-sport exercise 1 hour=23 minutes spent with others. The report also highlights that well-off individuals are up to 1.7 times more likely to be active than those less well-off and the participation gap between men and women remains pronounced in all participating cities. 


Consensus Statements 

  • The Copenhagen Consensus Conference 2016: children, youth, and physical activity in schools and during leisure time, Bangsbo J, Krustrup P, Duda J, et.al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, (published online 27 June 2016). This evidence-based consensus statement was prepared by 24 researchers from 8 countries, representing a variety of academic disciplines. Physical activity is an overarching term that consists of many structured and unstructured forms within school and out-of-school-time contexts, including organised school sport, physical education, outdoor recreation, motor skill development programs, active play during recess, and active transportation such as biking and walking to/from school. This consensus statement represents accord on the effects of physical activity on children's and youth's fitness, health, cognitive functioning, engagement, motivation, psychological wellbeing and social inclusion. There are 21 items of consensus grouped into four thematic areas that identify educational and physical activity implementation strategies.

Canadian Sport Policy 2012, (PDF  - 18.2 MB), Government of Canada, endorsed by Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers responsible for sport, physical activity and recreation (27 June 2012). The current Canadian Sport Policy, effective from 2012 to 2022, sets a direction for all governments, institutions and organizations to make sure sport has a positive impact on the lives of Canadians, our communities and our country. Canadian Governments have been involved in sport since the early part of the twentieth century because they recognize sport as a powerful means of enhancing society’s health and well-being. Fundamental to this Policy is the assumption that quality sport is dependent on seven principles appropriately integrated into all sport-related policies and programs: (1) values-based (i.e. promoting ethical conduct); (2) inclusive; (3) technically sound; (4) collaborative; (5) intentional (i.e. based upon objectives); (6) effective, and; (7) sustainable.

Game on – Ontario Government’s Sport Plan. As a legacy of the Pan American and Parapan American Games staged in Toronto in 2015, the Provincial Government of Ontario has announced its ‘sport plan’. Game On outlines the three pillars of participation, development, and excellence in sport. A Minister's Advisory Panel, comprised of leaders in each of the three priority areas, will be established to guide implementation of the plan. This plan responds to a need that has been identified by stakeholders in the sector over the past few years to sharpen the focus of the ministry's objectives and achieve better results for the citizens of Ontario. This will require changes to how the ministry does business, and represents an opportunity to work more closely and productively with partners. Game On is designed to support a system that encourages as many people as possible to play organised sports, and retain participants in those sports by developing the passion and skills of athletes. It also aims to have more Ontario athletes than ever before excel, taking their place in the very front ranks of their chosen sports. Finally, the Ontario Government's Sport Plan encourages lifelong participation and engagement in sport and physical activity.

Long-term athlete development Canada: Attempting system change and multi-agency cooperation, Norris S, Current Sports Medicine Reports, Volume 9(6), (2010). This article provides a synopsis of the Canadian ‘Sport for Life’ project from its inception as a outgrowth of the first Canadian Sport Policy, released in 2002 by Sport Canada (i.e. the sport participation and performance agency within the Canadian Heritage Ministry of Government). Although the central themes have been athlete and sport development pathways, the implementation process has involved many government policies – health, education, facility funding – as well as interagency working relationships. The four strategic pillars of the Canadian Sports Policy are: (1) participation; (2) excellence; (3) capacity, and; (4) interaction.

ParticipACTION Pulse Report, MEC/ParticipACTION, (April 2018). The Pulse Report assesses the social climate of physical activity among Canadian adults. A first of its kind, 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.  

ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Adults: Better with Age Move more today for a healthier tomorrow, ParticipACTION, (2019). The 2019 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Adults assigns letter grades to 13 different indicators grouped into 4 categories (Daily behaviours, Individual characteristics, Settings and sources of influence and, Strategies and investments). Letter grades are based on an examination of current data for each indicator, where available, against a benchmark or optimal scenario. Together, the indicators provide a comprehensive assessment of how we are doing as a nation regarding the promotion and facilitation of physical activity among adults living in Canada. The overall physical activity grade for Canadian adults was 'D'.  

Two Solitudes: grass-roots sport and high-performance sport in Canada', Peter Donnelly and Bruce Kidd, Chapter 5 in Elite sport and sport-for-all: Bridging the two cultures?, Richard Bailey and Margaret Talbot (editors), Routledge, (2015). This chapter considers how the sport system in Canada changed, as it did in many countries, from a single system - an integrated pyramid where high-performance athletes emerged from a broad base of participation - to become two relatively distinct sport systems. The authors point to Montreal (1976) Olympic Games as a key turning point where the two systems became evident; follow those changes through the development of Canadian sport policy; examine some consequences of the bipartite system; and conclude by suggesting ways in which sports policy makers might re-link the two systems to the benefit of both.   

Sport for all, Japan Sports Agency, (October 2015). The JSA will enhance measures to realize a life-long sport society where everyone can enjoy sport whenever,wherever and for however long they want. The JSA will advance measures to promote the nation’s participation in sport, aiming to reach a 65 percent rate of adult’s who are involved in sports more than once a week, and a 30 percent rate of adult’s who are involved in sports more than three times a week. Other policies are available in the Policy Index

Monitoring the Dutch National Prevention Program, Dr Cathy Rompelberg and Dr Matthijs van den Berg, EuroHealthNet magazine, (2017). A grassroots-led ‘health movement’ is growing in the Netherlands, stimulated by a collaboration between governments, businesses, and civil society. This ‘National Prevention Program’ emphasises health promotion in healthcare, at home, school, and work. Progress of the Program has been monitored during the whole period. Results show that considerable progress has been made. Due to its success the Program will be continued until 2020.

Active NZ Survey 2018, Sport New Zealand, (2018). The Active NZ survey measures nationwide participation in play, active recreation and sport.  The survey is sent to a sample of New Zealanders on the electoral roll through our research partner, Neilsen. Following on from the redesign in 2017, this is the second year of data collection and the beginning of a new time series on participation in play, active recreation and sport for New Zealanders aged 5+. The 2018 results are based on data collected between 5 January 2018 and 4 January 2019.

Community Sport Strategy 2015-2020Sport NZ, (2015). The Sport NZ Group (Sport NZ) is the national agency for sport and recreation. Our job is to get more young people and adults into sport, which we will do through this Community Sport Strategy, and produce more winners on the world stage, which we do through a High Performance Strategy, delivered by our wholly-owned subsidiary High Performance Sport NZ. We use a wide definition of Community Sport. It includes play (age and stage appropriate development opportunities for young people), active and outdoor recreation, and competitive sport taking place through clubs and events (including talent development). Community sport does not include passive recreation such as gardening or elite (international) competition.

Sport and Recreation in the lives of 15 to 18 year-old girls, (PDF  - 2.2 MB), 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.

Value of Sport, Sport New Zealand, (17 March 2018). A new study which explores the value of sport to New Zealanders, their communities and our country. The Value of Sport is based on extensive research, including a survey of around 2,000 New Zealanders and a review of previous studies from around the world. Links on the page to the summary infographic report, main report, and research report. Some key findings from the Value of Sport research: 

  • 90 per cent of the people we talked to believe being active keeps them physically fit and healthy, and helps relieve stress
  • 88 per cent believe that sport and other physical activities provide them with opportunities to achieve and help build confidence
  • 84 per cent believe sport and physical activity bring people together and create a sense of belonging
  • 74 per cent say sport and physical activity help build vibrant and stimulating communities
  • 86 per cent agree that high performance sport both helps instil a sense of pride in our country, and contributes to our national identity as New Zealanders
  • Sport and active recreation contributes $4.9 billion or 2.3% to our annual GDP, and the sector employs more than 53,000 New Zealanders. 

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. This is the largest survey of sport and active recreation ever carried out in Europe. 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.

  • Active Lives Adult Survey: understanding behaviour, Sport England, (February 2019). This work delves under the surface of why different people engage with sport and physical activity in different ways, and ultimately why some are more likely to be active than others. The study found that the majority of people say they enjoy sport and physical activity and that it is important to be active but 32% (5.5million people) who were not currently physically active indicated that they don't feel they have the ability to be physically active. This appears to be a significant factor in whether or not people enjoy sport and physical activity, which in turn, is the biggest driver of participation. Based on this research Sport England is in the process of developing a physical activity market segmentation of the adult population of England. 
  • Active Lives: Children & Young People Survey - Attitudes towards sport and physical activitySport England, (March 2019). This new analysis has identified five key findings that give us further insight into the attitudes of children and young people towards sport and physical activity. The key findings are: Physically literate children do twice as much activity. The more of the five elements of physical literacy - enjoyment, confidence, competence, understanding and knowledge - children have, the more active they are. Enjoyment is the biggest driver of activity levels. Despite the majority of children (68%) understanding that sport and activity is good for them, understanding had the least impact on activity levels. Children who have all five elements of physically literacy report higher levels of happiness, are more trusting of other children, and report higher levels of resilience (continuing to try if you find something difficult). Physical literacy decreases with age. As children grow older, they report lower levels of enjoyment, confidence, competence, and understanding. Previous research from Sport England shows that activity levels drop when children reach their teenage years. Additionally there are inequalities between certain groups of children: Girls are less likely to say they enjoy or feel confident about doing sport and physical activity. (58% of boys enjoy it, compared to 43% of girls. 47% of boys feel confident, compared to 31% of girls.) Among children aged 5-7, boys are more likely to love playing sport, while girls are more likely to love being active. Children from the least affluent families are less likely to enjoy activity than those from the most affluent families, and previous research shows they are also far less likely to be active. Black children are more physically literate than other ethnic groups – driven by boys, but they're less active than the population as a whole.
  • Active Lives: Children & Young People Survey - Academic year 2018/19, Sport England, (December 2019). This report presents data from the Active Lives Children and Young People Survey for the academic year 2018/19. Data is presented for children and young people in school Years 1-11 (ages 5-16) in England. The data shows that 46.8% of children and young people (3.3 million) are meeting the new Chief Medical Officer guidelines of taking part in sport and physical activity for an average of 60 minutes or more every day. Meanwhile 29.0% (2.1m) do less than an average of 30 minutes a day. The proportion of children and young people reporting they were active has increased by 3.6% over the past 12 months (an increase of 279,600 active children and young people in England). Boys (51%) are more likely to be active than girls (43%), however, both boys and girls have seen an increase in activity levels over the last 12 months. The gap between boys and girls who are active is fairly consistent across school years. Conversely, girls (30%) are more likely to be less active than boys (27%). The report also highlights that there is a positive association between levels of engagement in sport and physical activity and levels of mental wellbeing; individual development; and community development. 

Everybody Active, Every Day: An evidence-based approach to physical activity, (PDF - 1.3 MB), Varney J, Brannan M and Aaltonen G, Public Health England, (2014). This report from Public Health England, an autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health, provides evidence that physical activity reduces the risk of many preventable diseases. It also supports the role of physical activity in enhancing the life of everyone, from children to mature age.

The Impact Of Public Funding On Olympic Performance And Mass Participation In Great Britain (PDF  - 1.0 MB), Desislava Goranova, Coventry University, (June 2014). There is a rising tendency among countries to prioritise some sports over others and make higher investments of money and resources in their elite development (Green and Oakley, 2001). Such policies and strategies are adopted in the UK, too. Some sports are considered more likely to bring Olympic medals than others and therefore, they are targeted to receive higher funding. Those placed outside the selection are more likely to face challenges in practices to develop their winning potential. This research will aim to establish if such relationship exists between Olympic sports funding distribution, Olympic performance, and national participation numbers. It will provide a critical review of the British sport system and relevant policies, and it will explore where the written policies do not reflect the relevant actions undertaken. 

Sport England: Towards an active nation strategy 2016-2021Sport England, (2016). The legacy of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games has built the foundations for this new strategy. This document outlines how Sport England plans to implement the Government’s Sporting Future policy. This document sets out how Sport England will deliver in these key areas:

  • Tackling inactivity, this is where the greatest health and social impacts will be realised.
  • Increasing participation among children and young people from the age of five, to build positive attitudes about sport and physical activity as a foundation for life.
  • Helping those who are currently active to continue, addressing some of the cost issues and helping sports become more sustainable and self-sufficient.
  • Putting customers at the heart of program decisions, helping the sector become more responsive to segments of the population that are under-represented in sport.
  • Helping sport keep pace with technology.
  • Encouraging stronger local collaboration to deliver a better sport and activity experience for customers.
  • Working with a wider range of partners, including the private sector, to align resources.
  • Encouraging innovation and the sharing of best practice.  

Sporting Future: A new strategy for an active nation, (PDF  - 1.1 MB), UK Government, Cabinet Office, (December 2015). For more than a decade, the UK Government’s policy on sport has been to get more people participating, as well as achieving success in Olympic and Paralympic competition. Both of these objectives are valuable, and will remain part of this new strategy. However, what really matters is how sport benefits the public and the country. At the heart of this new strategy is a simple framework which sets out how success will be judged by impact on the set of outcomes that define why governments invest in sport: (1) to promote physical wellbeing; (2) to promote mental wellbeing; (3) to encourage individual development; (4) to contribute to social and community development, and; (5) to encourage/stimulate economic development. All new government funding for sport and physical activity will go to organisations which can best demonstrate that they will deliver some or all of the five outcomes. It is likely that organisations which show that they can work collaboratively and tailor their work at the local level will be best placed to access this funding.

  • Sporting Future – First Annual Report, Government of the United Kingdom, Department of Culture, Media and Sport, (February 2017). This first annual report sets out the steps the Government has taken so far towards making sure that everyone can benefit from the power of sport. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the five outcomes are summarised in a chart (see p33), previous comparable data is (generally) unavailable, so this first report establishes a baseline upon which future outcomes can be measured.  
  • Sporting Future – Second Annual ReportGovernment of the United Kingdom, Department of Culture, Media and Sport, (January 2018). The second annual report on the strategy sets out the progress that has been made in the past year, and focuses on ten key themes and areas of progress: Cross-government working; Change in participation approach; Sports governance; Anti-doping; Duty of care, safeguarding and mental health; Major events: past, present and future; Safe stadia, accessibility, fan engagement and infrastructure; The sporting workforce; Elite sport; Sporting economy.
Value of SwimmingSwim England, (November 2019). As the national governing body for swimming, water polo, diving and synchronised swimming in England, Swim England commissioned this research to build a robust evidence base around the specific benefits of water-based activity. The findings show how swimming can positively contribute to physical and mental wellbeing, to individual and community development, and help to reduce the burden to the health and social care system. Some of the key benefits suggested by this report include that swimming is already reducing health and social care costs by up to £357million a year. This includes estimated savings from dementia, strokes, diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer, depression, and reduced GP and psychotherapy visits by those who swim regularly. Additionally, across the different datasets analysed, a positive association was seen between swimming and: social connectedness; trust (in general and of neighbours); community cohesion; volunteering; percieved ability to achieve goals; life satisfaction; and, health and mental health. 

National Youth Sports Strategy, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, (2019). The National Youth Sports Strategy is an essential resource for policymakers and key decision-makers in youth sports. It aims to unite U.S. youth sports culture around a shared vision: that one day, all young people will have the opportunity, motivation, and access to play sports — regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, ability, or ZIP code. Based on research and best practices from the scientific community and successful youth sports programs across the United States, it offers actionable strategies for parents, coaches, organizations, communities, and policymakers to support youth sports participation for all.

Promoting physical activity through policy, (PDF  - 616 KB), Eyler A, President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, Research Digest, Series 12, Number 3 (2011). , It would be accurate to say that most Americans do not meet the level of physical activity recommended for good health. Conversely, exercise equipment, sporting goods, and fitness centres are growing industries. However, this growth in fitness related goods and services has not had an impact on the number of inactive (sedentary) people, or the growing rate of overweight and obesity in the population. Policy approaches are designed to help people develop healthier behaviours by providing opportunities and support for those behaviors. There are several benefits to approaching the public health problems cause by physical inactivity through policy. Policy interventions can benefit all people exposed to the environment, rather than focusing on individual behaviour. In addition to broadening the reach of strategies and interventions, a policy usually has significant affect over the long-term. Promising policy areas that have demonstrated change in physical activity include: (1) quality physical education in schools; (2) complete streets (i.e. how a community is designed to encourage more physical activity); (3) joint use of facilities (i.e. school – community partnerships), and; (4) community trail (i.e. encouraging active transport).

Sports and Health in America, Harvard School of Public Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (June 2015). Key statistics about sport participation among adults in the USA are highlighted in this report:

  • Only one in four adults currently play sports, while almost three in four adults (73%) aged 30+ played sports when they were younger.
  • There is a striking gender gap in sports participation among adults. Men are more than twice as likely as women to say they have played sports in the past year. Among younger adults (aged 18-29 years), 48% of men and 23% of women currently play sports. This gender gap widens with age, in adults aged 65+, men are more than three times more likely as women to play sports (32% to 9%).
  • Lower-income adults are less than half as likely to play sports as higher-income adults. Sports participation among adults varies by income, where only 15% of lower-income adults play sports (i.e. household incomes less than $25,000/year), while 37% of higher-income adults play sports (i.e. household incomes above $75,000/year).
  • The top two reasons adults say they play sports are for personal enjoyment and health. Adults report that playing or participating in sports has improved their well-being in a variety of ways – reduced stress and improved mental and physical health.
  • The vast majority of adults who play sports (85%) say their performance in sports is important to them and winning was important to 56% of the adults who play sports.
  • Most parents place a high priority on their children playing sports. Only 1% of parents discourage their child from playing sports, and 22% say they don’t express a preference.
Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game, Aspen Institute, Project Play, (2015). Over the past two years, Project Play has convened more than 250 thought leaders in a series of roundtables, identifying strategies that can address barriers limiting access to early sport activity that fosters the development of healthy children and communities. This 50-page report aggregates the eight most promising strategies. Authored by the Sports & Society Program with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game is a unifying document, collecting in one place the best opportunities for stakeholders—from sport leaders to mayors, parents to policymakers—to work together to grow access to an early, positive sport experience.

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