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Participation in sport

Factors influencing sport participation

Women run onto a field ready to play football There are 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
  • peer interaction
  • positive environment
  • venue accessibility.

Factors that consistently appear as negative or contributing to non-participation or dropout include:

  • excessive travel
  • the expense of training and competition
  • inconvenient training times
  • low levels of physical literacy or perceptions of competence
  • 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)

Competence (physical literacy)




Role models

Organisational capacity


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