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Latest data from Sport Australia reveals COVID-19 still impacting Australia’s return to sport

Latest data from Sport Australia reveals COVID-19 still impacting Australia’s return to sport
June 25, 2021

Latest data from Sport Australia’s AusPlay and Community Perceptions Monitor surveys have revealed that while the impact of COVID-19 remains a deterrent for participation in organised sport across Australia, the pandemic has driven up rates of participation in socially-distanced sports and recreational activities.

Sport Australia Acting Chief Executive Rob Dalton said while the pandemic had resulted in a dip in participation for some sports, there had been a rise in others and noted “while men drove the increases in golf, tennis, and mountain biking, women contributed more than men to the increases in walking, running, bush walking, swimming and yoga participation.

“Sports like golf and tennis, which were not as affected by lockdowns and restrictions have seen significant increases in overall participation over the past 12 months.”

An estimated 253,000 more Australian adults participated in golf in 2020 compared with 2019, while 185,000 more participants played tennis.

Dalton said the research found 80% of adults and children who played organised sport before COVID-19 had returned to at least one of their sports by March 2021.

However, restrictions on junior sport had resulted in the percentage of children who played organised sport outside of school at least once a week dropping from 55% in 2019 to 43% in 2020.

Dalton advised “we know sport and physical activity is vital to the overall development of children and that’s why our Sporting Schools program is so important.

“It gives every Australian child the opportunity to get active and engaged through sport.”

Dalton said AusPlay continues to be an important way to track how Australians engage with sport and physical activity, while the Community Perceptions Monitor survey captures public attitudes towards various aspects of sport.

The latest findings follow Sport Australia’s Early impact of COVID-19 on sport and physical activity participation report published in October last year.

Minister for Sport, Richard Colbeck said he was confident sport will emerge from the pandemic in a strong position noting “The Australian Government, through Sport Australia, is getting on with the job of supporting sport. We recognise it will be a long recovery process for some and we remain committed to supporting sport through these uncertain times.”

He said the Government’s decision to extend the successful Sporting Schools program in Budget 2021/2022 was driven by its success over recent years, providing an additional $40.8 million to extend the program.

Additionally, the Government is committed to increasing opportunities for women’s participation in sport and support for elite female athletes.

“With one month to go until the Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony, it’s clear that sport continues to play an important role in the lives of all Australians and this report provides us with vital insights as sports look to attract and retain participants as we recover from COVID-19,” Minister Colbeck added.

The data also show:

•Adults became more physically active on purpose during COVID-19, resulting in a significant increase in the frequency of their participation. This appears to have been driven by women.

•44% of Australians said they missed sport being in their life through the early phases of COVID-19.

•This had fallen to 30% by Christmas and to 26% by March 2021.

•The top reasons for adults not returning to organised sport include COVID-19 concerns (38%), other commitments (36%) or because organised sport was yet to re-start (31%). 

•The top reasons children hadn’t returned were primarily because junior competition had not re-started (37%) and concerns about COVID-19 (31%). 

•By March 2021, 16% of Australian adults and 23% of children had started playing in a new organised sport for the first time since COVID-19.

•53% of adults who volunteered before COVID-19 were back volunteering by March 2021 compared with 30% in August 2020.

•5% of Australian adults had started volunteering in an organised sport for the first time since COVID-19 by March 2021. Their primary motivations for starting were wanting to do something for the community (44%) and social reasons (35%). 

The full report is available here.

Image: front cover of report

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