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Sunday, 29 January 2012

Young Adults and Sport: motives and barriers

I am delighted to tell you that today's is a Guest Post.

It is the first of a series of guest posts, focusing on sports participation, written by some exciting young researchers and academics.

Here, Matthew Reeves talks about the participation of young adults.

“The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life's morning.  The significance of the morning undoubtedly lies in the development of the individual...” (Carl Jung)

I’d like to start by thanking Richard for inviting me to write a guest blog – something I haven’t been asked to do, nor tried to do, previously.  We’ll see how I get on!

I’m going discuss ideas around the motivations and barriers that teenagers and young adults face with regard to their participation in sport.  Jung’s statement, above, may appear to focus upon the ‘older’ person however, there is one key thing to remember:  the drop out from sport and physical activity is highest amongst adolescents, thus bringing “the afternoon of human life” further forward than we may like to think (at least from a sporting/physically active perspective). 

Before discussing what barriers young adults face it seems reasonable to discuss why young people want to initially take part in sport and physical activity.  The motives young adults and adults have to participate in sport may well be different from those of younger participants.  Sports psychology research has concentrated on explaining motives for participation and adherence, looking at variables such as gender, age and culture.  The contexts for previous research have tended to be specific sports codes, with the sample population typically being youth, adolescents and/or elite level sports people.  However, there are some researchers who have suggested that research on the motivation of adult engagement in sport and physical activity has dramatically increased as the benefits of moderate, regular physical activity have become better recognised.  Such research has tended to approach the matter from a health perspective, especially investigating peoples’ health related behaviour.  Such approaches have created a sizeable gap within our knowledge of adult motivations to participate in sport and phsyical activity.  For the sake of brevity, I wont go in to detail on the studies included in the writing of this piece, I have simply summarised the key findings. 

There are multiple motives as to why adults take part in sport.  The following are the broad motivating factors that adults (18 or 50) or older adults (50+) have cited as reasons why they take part in sport:

  • Physical Fitness and Health
  • Social Motives / Enjoyment / Relaxation / Appearance
  • Personal Challenge
  • Mastery Orientation / Weight Loss
  • Sense of Achievement / Competition
  • Medical Sanction
  • More Energy

The categories above have been listed in sequential order as to the number of times they have been found within the research literature.  However, it is important to note that many of the categories overlapped and had a direct interplay with each other.

Unsurprisingly, the picture of demotivation is as complex as its more positive counterpoint.  The reasons offered by one particular study for dropping out and discontinuing participation in sport are equally as varied and include:

·      It was no longer fun
·      No longer interested in the activity
·      I didn’t like the coach
·      I want to participate in other activities

Critically, research has suggested that the majority of reasons for discontinuation are negative and are likely to have a significant impact on future participation decisions.  It is estimated a significant proportion of children drop out of sport each year.  Whilst some drop out of one sport and continue participating in an alternative, others discontinue participation completely.  The literature suggests that adolescence is a period where discontinuation from sport and physical activity is at its peak.  One particular study sampled youth sport participants and found that while over a quarter of children were participating in sport at 10 years of age, this dropped significantly to just over 3% at age 18 years of age.  Females, in particular, indicate that negative physical and emotional experiences in sport led to their decision to discontinue participation. This parallels other research findings, suggesting females drop out of sport because it is too competitive and because they do not see themselves as competent.  Similarly, males suggested that the competitive nature of participation led to their withdrawal (i.e. when they were unsuccessful).  

Adolescents and young adults also describe transitions within education (and from education to employment) as having a negative impact on participation in sport.  However, self-motivation, self-efficacy and self-concept are described as factors between those who maintain participation during such transitions and those who drop out and discontinue.  For example, the young women in surveyed in an American study who ‘never participate’ suggested the transition to secondary school and beyond negatively impacted their participation as they had less time, less energy and their social groups had changed.  Mention was also made that participants felt more self-conscious during this time which also lead to their discontinuation in sport.  Conversely, while the young women who ‘always participate’ experienced similar transitional challenges, they acknowledged that their self-motivation and commitment to sport enabled them to successfully negotiate these key periods of development.

A national study categorised the barriers to preventing adults from taking more exercise into five main types:  

time; and

Although time barriers appear to be important for both men and women, women are more likely to report emotional barriers to exercise (e.g. ‘I’m not the sporty type’).  This is likely to be related to perceptions of competence where individuals avoid participation in activities because of self-presentational concerns.  I feel this is a good time to direct you to the final blog entry I have been asked to write regarding the development of fundamental movement skills during childhood and adolescence – it will close some of the potential gaps developing at this point.

Predicting adult involvement in physical activity is an area which has received cursory research interest over the last 40 years or so.  The dearth of literature associated with this area, an inconsistency of approach and theoretical foundation has left findings somewhat inconsistent and conflicting.  Research, to date, has also tended to focus upon factors associated with participation in ‘team sports’, thus leaving individual participation in sport largely under researched.

The final point to make is that some of the research literature suggests physical activity habits developed in childhood and adolescence may be associated with physical activity levels in adulthood.  These findings are somewhat conflicting and further investigation into this phenomenon is required.  From the individuals’ perspective, understanding the reasons underlying continuation and discontinuation in sport and physical activity is critical and encompasses factors, such as skill competence and psychobehavioural factors, as well as social factors, such as motivational climate.

Well – that finishes my first attempt!  I hope you have found it useful, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions; I will of course check comments posted on the blog.  The reference list contains all research referred to throughout and other pieces which underpin the blog itself.

Further Reading

Bailey, R., Collins, D., Ford, P., MacNamara, A., Toms, M., and Pearce, G. (2010). Participant Development in Sport: An Academic Review. Leeds: Sports Coach UK.

Biddle, S. J., and Bailey, C. I. (1985). Motives for Participation and Attitudes Toward Physical Activity of Adult Participants in Fitness Programs. Perceptual and Motor Skills , 61, 831 - 834.

Biddle, S., Coalter, F., O'Donovan, T., MacBeth, J., Nevill, M., and Whitehead, S. (2005). Increasing Demand for Sport and Physical Activity by Girls. Edinburgh: Sport Scotland.

Butcher, J., Linder, K. J., and Johns, D. P. (2002). Withdrawl from Competitive Youth Sport: A Retrospective Ten-year Study. Journal of Sport Behaviour , 25 (2), 145 - 163.

Davey, J., Fitzpatrick, M., Garland, R., and Kilgour, M. (2009). Adult Participation Motives: Emperical Evidence from a Workplace Exercise Programme. European Sport Management Quarterly , 9 (2), 141 - 162.

Malina, R. M. (2001). Physical Activity and Fitness: Pathways from Childhood to Adulthood. American Journal of Human Biology , 13, 162 - 172.

Seefeldt, V., Malina, R. M., and Clark, M. A. (2002). Factors Affecting Levels of Physical Activity in Adults. Sports Medicine , 32 (3), 143 - 168.

Matthew Reeves is a Researcher and Teaching Support Officer in the Faculty of Education, Community and Leisure at Liverpool John Moores University.  His research interests are sports development and physical education policy and coach education and development.  Matthew has worked on a variety of international, national, regional and local projects.
Twitter:  @MRSportEdu


Jen said...

Nicely put. The next step is clarifying the ways in which physical activity and sport can be approached within childhood, adolescence and adulthood to encourage participation. It could be interesting to consider the type of more individual physical activities that tend to attract those in the 'afternoon' of life - running, martial arts, yoga and the like...

Gemma said...

Yeah, I agree with Jen re the 'afternoon of life'. This blog is interesting to look at the transition people take when entering adulthood from compulsory education. The blog mentions middle-aged and older adults a bit, but another blog looking at this group specifically would be good. Would be interesting to look at if they are different and how life events can potentially change people's behaviours and attitudes.

I also like the bit that it's not just about motivation, but its also about demotivation. Unfortunately so many studies don't catch the reason for drop out. It's a shame as I think barriers to doing something is just as important, if not more, than motivations.

Nick said...

I love the indepth analysis on quantifying what I call passion. As a coach, trainer, and youth advocate we all know the reason are complex why interest wane 4 many kids. It get real complex as you stated especially with my girls student-athletes - the girls r discouraged from excelling by society in STEM academically & sports athletically; Many girls feel those insecure guys out there don't want a lady that is smarter, faster and can outplay them :-).

simi remy said...

This blog is interesting to look at the transition people take when entering adulthood from compulsory education.editorial essay topicsThe education of teenagers is compulsory for the For the sake of brevity.Sports activity is also very imprtabnt for the youth for their physical maintance. Very nice thought.

simi remy said...

This blog is interesting to look at the transition people take when entering adulthood from compulsory education.editorial essay topicsThe education of teenagers is compulsory for the For the sake of brevity.Sports activity is also very imprtabnt for the youth for their physical maintance. Very nice thought.

simi remy said...

This blog is interesting to look at the transition people take when entering adulthood from compulsory education.editorial essay topicsThe education of teenagers is compulsory for the For the sake of brevity.Sports activity is also very imprtabnt for the youth for their physical maintance. Very nice thought.