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Report finds Australian sports 'too competitive' for kids

by nk on 3 Jun 2013
Sailing kids - should it be fun as well as competitive? SW
With more and more media attention given to high performing sailors, Australia and New Zealand sailing clubs might do well to take note of a new report out about kid's participation in sport.

Australia’s sporting clubs, including sailing clubs, have the potential to recruit over 1.1 million Australian primary school aged children in sport. However, the new report says that the over-competitiveness in sport leads many kids to reject spending time in clubs that they might otherwise join.


The research report claims that Australia’s sporting clubs have the potential to recruit over 1.1 million Australian primary school aged children in sport if they can address the key barriers to their sport participation.

Minister for Sport Senator Kate Lundy said the report – 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.

'Young children tend to be fans of sport, and we see large numbers of primary-school aged children getting involved in club-based sport,' Senator Lundy said.

'But, this research tells us that older kids often see sports clubs as competitive and overly focused on performance. These things are taking the fun out of sports participation for some kids.

'The challenge for clubs is to remember that kids just want to have fun, and kids will leave club-based sport if they stop enjoying themselves.'

Key findings from the research include:

* 52 per cent of primary school children are currently engaged in club sport
* Retention is a key issue for sporting clubs with 25 per cent 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 the following six segments, including those that represent the greatest potential to grow and maintain sport participation:

Social loyalists: Highly engaged, love being part of a sports club and enjoy all facets of sport;
Sport driven: Sport provides a strong sense of identity and means of achievement through meeting personal goals;
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;
Thrifty enthusiasts: Very positive about sport but participate through other organisations, schools or courses rather than clubs;
Ponderers: Relatively positive attitude toward sport but view clubs as being too authoritative and competitive; and
Sport resistant: Do not understand the benefits of sport and strongly feel that clubs are not for them.

'Sport is only one of children’s many interests,' Senator Lundy said. 'This 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.'

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 Australian Sports Commission (ASC) as a means to engage children of all abilities in junior sports and to provide positive sporting experiences.

Today the Minister has also released new research that validates the P4L philosophy with children aged from 5 to 12, with P4L to be effective at creating fun and inclusive environments for sport participation.

The Children’s Market Segmentation and the P4L validation research are complementary tools that can help sports understand and better retain children within their clubs.

The research follows on from the Adult Market Segmentation study released earlier this year. Both are key parts of the Australian Sports Commission’s leadership role in guiding sport through the provision of evidence-based support, tools and investment to increase participation.
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