There are more than 1 million Australian primary school aged children who would like to play organised sport outside school if the key barriers to their sport participation could be met.
The report on Market Segmentation for Sport Participation: Children 5-13 years old identified the key motivators, needs and barriers that underpin Australian children’s participation in sport.
It showed that large numbers of primary school aged children get involved in club sport but older children drop away. The key reasons given include that there is too much focus on competition and performance and, other than potentially elite athletes, young people want to have fun playing sport.
Key findings from the research include:
- 52% of primary school children are currently engaged in club sport
- retention is a key issue for sporting clubs with 25% of Australian children reporting that they were once members of a sports club but have let their membership lapse
- older children aged 11-13 years are more likely to view sports clubs as competitive and overly focused on performance
- this perception of sports being overly focussed on competition coincides with an age when children (often teenagers) have greater feelings of self-consciousness while also becoming exposed to other entertainment options.
The research identifies six groups representing different attitudes and behaviour towards sport.
1. Social loyalists
Highly engaged, love being part of a sports club and enjoy all facets of sport
2. Sport driven
Sport provides a strong sense of identity and means of achievement through meeting personal goals
3. Apathetic clubbers
Only a small majority consider sport to be a key interest and join clubs for general enjoyment and socialising rather than skill advancement
4. Thrifty enthusiasts
Very positive about sport but participate through other organisations, schools or courses rather than clubs
Relatively positive attitude toward sport but view clubs as being too authoritative and competitive
6. Sport resistant
Do not understand the benefits of sport and strongly feel that clubs are not for them.
A spokesperson for the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) said that sport is only one of children’s many interests.
“The research can help sports clubs understand how to not only grow but also how to better retain children who want to stay active, but just aren’t enjoying traditional sporting clubs.”
The ASC said that one possible approach to keep Australian kids engaged in sport is the Playing for Life (P4L) philosophy, which is based on the concept of game play and uses games rather than traditional drill training to promote sports participation.
The P4L philosophy was developed by the ASC as a means to engage children of all abilities in junior sports and to provide positive sporting experiences.
The report does not refer to the cost of participation which, based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, is also a barrier to participation by people from lower socio-economic groups and particularly children of single parents.
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Further information on the P4L philosophy is available here.