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Landmark study finds sport struggling to keep youth engaged

Landmark study finds sport struggling to keep youth engaged
December 8, 2016

Australians spend more than $10 billion a year on sport and fitness activities, but keeping youngsters engaged in club games beyond 11 years old is proving a challenge, according to a landmark study into sports participation.

The first results of the Australian Sports Commission (ASC)’s landmark AusPlay survey show 54% of children aged under 14 years are active at least once a week in organised sport or physical activity after school hours.

However, the report, the most comprehensive survey of Australians’ sporting activity and motivation, found the biggest barriers for children aged under eight participating are parents’ perception that they are too young to start playing.

Launching the AusPlay survey at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Federal Minister for Sport, Sussan Ley, said that parents need to consider if their children are doing enough organised sport or physical activity outside of school hours, stating “these results show we all need to be encouraging our children to get more active more often so they enjoy the health and social benefits that come with an active lifestyle.”

Examines everything from what sports people play, how much money they spend, and their motivation for getting active, the report’s key findings show:

• 17 million Australians aged 15 or over did sport or physical activity in the last 12 months
• $10.7 billion was spent on fees for participation in sport or physical activity in the last 12 months
• 3.2 million children participated in some form of organised sport or physical activity outside of school hours
• Child participation in club sports peaks between ages nine and 11 then drops off
• Physical health or fitness is the strongest motivation for non-sport related physical activity

The report is the first of its kind since the Australian Bureau of Statistics stopped collecting sport and recreation data in 2014, and is based on surveys of more than 20,000 adults and 4,000 children.

Australian Sports Commission Deputy General Manager of Research & Information Paul Fairweather told ABC News Breakfast, explaining "it is very comprehensive and it is the first time we and all levels of the Government will have access to detailed information.”

Table: Top 10 participation sports.

The report found football as Australia’s most popular participation sport for children and adults followed by golf, AFL, netball and tennis.

Among non-organised activity walking topped the list following by gym memberships.

Fairweather said organised sports needed to evolve to maintain the interest of young people, stating “once kids hit those teenage years they drop off ... they're really in the middle of education, they have a lot of social things happening in their life, they're discovering boys and girls for the first time.

"I think what that means is that sport has to be more flexible and maybe offer shorter versions of the games; a lot of sports are doing that.

"They have to be more flexible in how they allow people to participate and how they allow them to become members.

"Sports need to evolve their games and the way they perform if they are to remain strong and we get more Australians being active."

Minister Ley agrees, adding “it is vital we increase the rate of physical activity in our children. Campaigns, such as Girls Make Your Move, and programs, including Sporting Schools, contribute to increasing physical activity.

“Sporting Schools provides schools across Australia with the opportunity for organised sport before, during or after school hours. The Turnbull Government has committed a further $60 million to 2018 into the successful Sporting Schools program, making a total investment of $160 million.

“Sporting Schools is an important step in introducing children to sport and helping develop the fundamentals and fun of sport and physical activity.”

ASC Chair John Wylie said AusPlay collected adults’ and children’s sport and physical recreation participation data together for the first time.

Table: Child participation in sport by age.

Wylie explained “the Australian Government’s investment in AusPlay means we will now have a deeper understanding of the sport and physical activity behaviours of our nation,” he said.

Other findings from the first 12 months of AusPlay data also show:

• Sport is very important for children and they are more likely to take part in organised sport-related activities than other forms of organised physical activity outside of school hours
• Physical health and fitness is the top motivator for all types of sport and physical activity with sport-related activity seen as being more fun and social 
• Time constraints is the biggest barrier to sport and physical activity for adults up to middle age 
• Of the $10.7 billion a year spent on sport and physical activity participation fees, less than a third (29%) goies to sports clubs 
• Use of technology in support of physical activity is particularly popular among young adults and women 
• The single most popular sport or physical activity for adults is walking (43%), while the most popular organised sport or physical activity outside of school hours for children is swimming 

The AusPlay survey, a continuous survey that will report accurate and reliable data and trends every six months, aims to help the sport sector, all tiers of government and communities across the nation get a better understanding of how and why Australians participate in sport and physical activity.

It shows how active Australians are, what drives them to be active, what sports and physical activities they take part in, how much they spend on participation fees and what are the most popular activities.

Results from the AusPlay survey will complement existing data and research conducted by the ASC in recent years. This research is aimed at giving sports reliable information so they can plan strategies to get more Australians participating in sport and physical activity.

Play.Sport.Australia., the ASC’s game plan for sports participation released in 2015, listed the AusPlay survey as a priority action to better understand participation trends in Australia, inform policy decisions and guide sports strategy.

The results of AusPlay were produced following interviews with over 20,000 adults, including more than 3,800 parents/guardians of children aged up to 14 years between October 2015 and September 2016.

Minister Ley concluded that AusPLay “will also help to develop strategies to overcome barriers to participation.

“It doesn’t matter which sport or physical activity appeals to you, we want to see more Australians being active more often.”

The next AusPlay release is due around April 2017.

Click here to view the AusPlay survey.

Main image courtesy of the Melbourne Sports Hub.

5th December 2016 - NRL CONCERN OVER DECLINING RUGBY LEAGUE PARTICIPANT NUMBERS 

5th December 2016 - GOLF INDUSTRY DETERMINED TO BUILD ON OLYMPICS MOMENTUM AND ENGAGE WITH YOUTH 

25th September 2016 - 1.2 MILLION PRIMARY SCHOOL STUDENTS PARTICIPATE IN SPORTING SCHOOLS PROGRAM 

7th September 2016 - REPORT IDENTIFIES BARRIERS TO DISABLED AUSTRALIANS PARTICIPATING IN SPORT

3rd May 2016 - SPORTS COMMISSION URGES TEENAGERS TO ‘STICK WITH’ SPORT

4th January 2016 - AFL CLAIMS MASSIVE GROWTH IN PARTICIPATION IN 2015

15th December 2015 - GYMNASTICS WELCOMES RECOGNITION AS TOP 10 PARTICIPATION SPORT FOR CHILDREN

5th December 2015 - AUSTRALIAN SPORTS COMMISSION SURVEY AIMS TO DRIVE FUTURE SPORT AND RECREATION POLICY


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