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4156.0.55.001 - Perspectives on Sport, Jan 2011  
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AUSTRALIAN CHILDREN GOING FOR GOLD CHILDREN'S PARTICIPATION IN COMMONWEALTH GAMES SPORTS


INTRODUCTION

Children's participation in organised sport (outside of school hours) not only has a positive effect on their health and well-being (Endnote 1), but also provides sporting organisations with the opportunity to uncover hidden talents and abilities and encourage young children to work towards achieving elite levels of performance through participation in international competitions.

The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) states on their website that forming links with sporting clubs and associations enables young people to continue their involvement in sport on a long-term basis (Endnote 2) and, with Australia's recent success at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, children's interest in participating in organised sport may not just be with recreation in mind, but also with the possibility of fulfilling their dreams of winning gold for Australia.

Commonwealth and Olympic Games medal winners are often put forward as role models for children and they can have an influence on the pathways that they choose both in sport and in life. For young children and adolescents, participation in sport can also improve their self confidence, increase social interaction and expose them to the concepts of fair play and achievement. Participation in sport can also discourage them from developing habits which will have a negative impact on the quality of their health and well-being, such as sedentary activities, potential violent behaviour, and substance abuse (Endnote 3).

The Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) survey of Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities (cat. no. 4901.0) (CPCLA) collects information on children's participation in cultural activities and organised sports outside of school hours during the 12 months prior to interview, and on participation in selected leisure activities outside of school hours during the most recent two school weeks prior to interview.

Using data from the 2009 CPCLA survey, this article will investigate the participation of Australian children (aged 5 to 14 years) in five popular Commonwealth Games sports. The article will also explore how other factors may impact on a child's likelihood of participating in these sports.


SETTING THE SCENE

Many of the athletes who competed in the Commonwealth Games held in Delhi in 2010 were much younger than those who competed in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games four years prior. This could be an indication that more and more young people are striving to achieve high levels of performance in sport (Endnote 4) and that our ability to recognise potential is improving.

A total of 63% or 1.7 million Australian children aged 5 to 14 years participated in organised sport or physical activity outside of school hours in the twelve months prior to interview in April 2009. More boys (70%) reported having participated in organised sport compared with girls (56%). When comparing participation rates in organised sport across age groups, boys aged between 5 to 8 years had a much higher participation rate than girls in the same age group (64% and 51% respectively). Similarly, boys aged 12 to 14 years (74%) had a significantly higher participation rate in organised sport, compared with girls (55%) in the same age group.

Children participating in organised sport in last 12 months, By age and sex - 2009
Graph: Children participating in organised sport in last 12 months, By age and sex—2009



COMMONWEALTH GAMES SPORTS

Currently, representatives from 71 countries compete in the Commonwealth Games (Endnote 5) with athlete participation increasing dramatically over time from 1,583 athletes who competed in Brisbane in 1982, to 6,700 who participated in the 2010 games held in Delhi (Endnote 6). From the range of Commonwealth Games sports that athletes are able to compete in, the 2009 CPCLA survey found that Australian children were most likely to participate in swimming (including diving), athletics (including track and field events), gymnastics, rugby league, and netball.

Children participating in selected Commonwealth Games sports, By sex - 2009
Graph: Children participating in selected Commonwealth Games sports, By sex—2009



Swimming (including diving)

In 2009 swimming was the most popular Commonwealth Games sport that children participated in outside of school hours, with an overall participation rate of 19%. This could be partially due to the fact that almost all Australian capital cities are surrounded by coastal beaches, and participation in swimming lessons are not only essential for enjoyment of our country's natural assets and climate, but also for children's safety (Endnote 7). Overall, girls had a higher participation rate (20%) in swimming compared with boys (17%).

The trend evident in children's participation in swimming in 2009 for both boys and girls was that participation decreased as age increased. Boys aged 5 to 8 years (25%) had a higher rate of participation in swimming compared with boys aged 12 to 14 years, who also reported the lowest rate of participation of all the age groups (7%). Girls aged 5 to 8 years reported the highest rate of participation in swimming at 28% compared with 9% of girls aged 12 to 14 years.


Athletics (including track and field)

There was no significant difference between boys' and girls' participation in athletics in 2009 (3% and 4% respectively). The highest levels of participation were reported by boys aged 9 to 11 years and girls aged 5 to 8 years (each 4%).


Gymnastics

In 2009, higher rates of participation in gymnastics were reported by girls (8%) than by boys (2%). Boys aged 5 to 8 years who participated in gymnastics reported a participation rate of 3% which gradually decreased as age increased. Girls aged 5 to 8 years reported higher participation rates (10%) than those aged 9 to 11 years (9%) and 12 to 14 years (3%).


Rugby league

Rugby league was the second most popular sport for boys after swimming with an overall participation rate of 7%. Participation in rugby league by boys increased as age increased. Boys who participated in rugby league aged between 5 to 8 years had a participation rate of 4%, which more than doubled for boys aged 12 to 14 years (10%).


Netball

Netball was amongst one of the most popular organised sports for girls in 2009 with an overall participation rate of 17%. There was a significant difference between girls who participated in netball aged 5 to 8 years, and 12 to 14 years (7% and 23% respectively) while the participation rates for girls in netball were similar for those aged 9 to 11 years and 12 to 14 (24% and 23% respectively).


STATE OR TERRITORY OF USUAL RESIDENCE

The results of the 2009 CPCLA survey show that Victorian children had the highest participation rate in swimming (23%) compared with the Northern Territory which reported the lowest (6%). The highest rates of participation by boys for swimming were in Victoria (20%) and New South Wales (19%). Girls reported high levels of participation for swimming across all states and territories with girls having the highest participation rates in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory (both 25%).

New South Wales and Queensland had high rates of participation in rugby league by boys (13% and 12% respectively).

The highest rate of participation in gymnastics was by girls residing in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory (both 12%), followed by South Australia (10%). Girls residing in South Australia reported the highest rate of participation in netball (31%) compared with the other states and territories.

While the results of the 2009 CPCLA survey indicate that in some areas, children did not participate in rugby league, netball or athletics, it is possible that some children in these states and territories did participate in this sport however, they are so few in number that they were not represented in this survey.

CHILDREN PARTICIPATING IN SELECTED COMMONWEALTH GAMES SPORTS, By state or territory and sex - 2009

SWIMMING
ATHLETICS
GYMNASTICS
RUGBY LEAGUE
NETBALL
Males
Females
Males
Females
Males
Females
Males
Females
Males
Females

Participation rate (%)

New South Wales
18.7
16.9
3.3
3.8
*1.6
7.0
13.0
-
-
15.4
Victoria
20.1
25.0
4.0
*4.3
*1.6
7.7
-
-
**0.4
19.0
Queensland
14.7
19.7
*2.3
*2.7
*2.5
7.0
11.8
-
**0.4
12.4
South Australia
14.6
16.5
**0.7
*3.4
**0.9
10.3
-
-
**0.3
31.4
Western Australia
15.0
19.9
*2.0
*3.1
*1.5
9.1
**0.7
-
**0.5
16.5
Tasmania
*10.0
19.4
*4.1
*4.9
**1.7
*2.2
-
-
**0.4
17.2
Northern Territory(a)
5.1
7.3
4.4
-
0.9
12.1
3.8
-
-
12.8
Australian Capital Territory
*18.3
*24.9
**5.3
2.1
**0.9
11.7
**9.8
-
-
*19.7

* estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
** estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use
- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
(a) Refers to mainly urban areas only. For further information refer to the Explanatory Notes in Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, Australia 2009 (cat. no. 4901.0)



REMOTENESS AREA

In some instances, children who live in rural and remote areas may have less opportunity to participate and achieve high levels of performance in a range of different sports (Endnote 8). When looking at participation in the most popular Commonwealth Games sports, the CPCLA survey found that 19% of Australian children who lived in major cities and inner regional areas of Australia took part in swimming in 2009, considerably higher than the 11% of children who lived in outer regional and remote areas.

There was only a small difference in participation in athletics, gymnastics and rugby league by children who lived in major cities and inner regional areas of Australia, and those who lived in outer regional and remote areas of Australia, while 8% of children who lived in major cities and inner regional areas of Australia played netball compared with 11% of children who lived in outer regional and remote areas of Australia.

Children participating in selected Commonwealth Games sports, By remoteness area - 2009
Graph: Children participating in selected Commonwealth Games sports, By remoteness area—2009



EMPLOYMENT STATUS OF PARENTS

The related costs and fees to parents who have children who are involved in organised sport outside of school, and the significant time commitment required to transport them to and from training and competitions, may affect a child's ability to be involved in particular sports.

For children in couple families, those children whose parents were both employed or who had one parent who was employed had higher rates of participation in swimming (22% and 20% respectively) when compared with children who came from couple families where neither parent was employed (9%). Differences in participation rates in athletics, gymnastics and rugby league by children from couple families where the parents were either employed or not employed were not so pronounced. However, children's participation in netball was higher where both parents were employed (11%) compared with children from couple families where one parent was employed (6%) and where neither parent was employed (4%).

Children participating in selected Commonwealth Games sports, By employment status of parents, couple families - 2009
Graph: Children participating in selected Commonwealth Games sports, By employment status of parents, couple families—2009



SOCIO-ECONOMIC INDEX

It has been found that young children who come from lower socio-economic groups have less opportunity, and may find it difficult, to participate in sport than those from higher socio-economic groups (Endnote 8). The Socio-Economic Index for Areas (SEIFA) is a measure of relative social advantage and disadvantage (a low result on the SEIFA index (lowest quintile) indicates relatively greater disadvantage and a lack of advantage in general as opposed to a high result (highest quintile) which indicates a relative lack of disadvantage and greater advantage).

In relation to children's participation in the five selected Commonwealth Games sports, 31% (153,600) of children who participated in swimming were in the highest quintile with only 10% (48,400) in the lowest. Participation in swimming showed a consistent increase between each quintile, with the majority of children who participated in swimming having greater levels of advantage.

Out of the 97,200 children who participated in rugby league, similar proportions were in the lowest (28% or 26,700 children) and third quintiles (30% or 29,200 children) with only 8% (7,700) in the highest quintile. The majority of children who participated in netball were in the highest quintile (27% or 61,700 children) and in the third quintile (22% or 49,600 children).

Children participating in selected Commonwealth Games sports, By SEIFA index - 2009
Graph: Children participating in selected Commonwealth Games sports, By SEIFA index—2009



NUMBER OF HOURS SPENT TRAINING

Swimming

The inspirational Jenny Turrell proved to the world that being only 13 years old was no barrier to winning a gold medal in the 400 metres freestyle swimming competition at the 1974 Christchurch Games, making her the youngest gold medal winner to date (Endnote 9). Her triumph is testament not only to her dedication but also to the number of hours she must have spent training in the pool in the lead up to the event.

In 2009, most children who participated in swimming did so for 2 hours or less in the two weeks prior to interview (45%). Smaller proportions of children participated for 3 to 4 hours (20%) and 5 to 9 hours (21%) and only 14% did so for 10 hours more.

A higher proportion of girls (49%) participated in swimming/diving for 2 hours or less compared with boys (41%). Similar proportions of boys compared with girls participated for 3 to 4 hours (22% compared with 18%), 5 to 9 hours (23% compared with 20%) and 10 hours or more (15% compared with 13%).

Children participating in swimming, Duration in 2 weeks prior to interview by sex - 2009
Graph: Children participating in swimming, Duration in 2 weeks prior to interview by sex—2009



Athletics

In 2009, 57% of children who trained in athletics did so for up to 4 hours in the two weeks prior to interview compared with 43% who trained in athletics for 5 hours or more. A higher proportion of girls (67%) compared with boys (46%) trained in athletics for up to 4 hours in the two weeks prior to interview, whereas more boys than girls trained in athletics for 5 hours or more in the two weeks prior to interview (54% and 33% respectively).

Children participating in athletics, Duration in 2 weeks prior to interview by sex - 2009
Graph: Children participating in athletics, Duration in 2 weeks prior to interview by sex—2009



Gymnastics

The majority of children who participated in gymnastics in 2009 did so for up to 4 hours in the two weeks prior to interview (56%). Smaller proportions of children participated for 5 to 9 hours (23%) and 10 hours or more (21%). These dedicated few obviously have a passion for their sport as it drives them to spend hours every week practising and training.

Children participating in gymnastics, Duration in 2 weeks prior to interview by sex - 2009
Graph: Children participating in gymnastics, Duration in 2 weeks prior to interview by sex—2009



Netball

In 2009, 23% of girls who played netball reported playing or training for 5 to 9 hours in the two weeks prior to interview. A lower proportion (14%) did so for 10 hours or more. Higher proportions of girls in all age groups who played netball did so for 5 to 9 hours (25% were aged 5 to 8 years, 20% were aged 9 to 11 years and 24% were aged 12 to 14 years) in the two weeks prior to interview compared with the proportions of girls who did so for 10 hours or more. The proportion of girls who played or trained in netball for 10 hours or more increased with age (5% were aged 5 to 8 years, 12% were aged 9 to 11 years and 20% were aged 12 to 14 years).

Females participating in netball, By age - 2009
Graph: Females participating in netball, By age—2009



Rugby league

The ABS publication Spectator Attendance at Sporting Events, 2009-10 (cat. no 4174.0) shows that around 10% of Australians attended rugby league events as spectators in 2009-10 with particular interest in the sport coming from New South Wales (with an attendance rate of 14%), Queensland (17%) and the Australian Capital Territory (14%). In terms of children's participation, in 2009, 48% of boys who played or trained in rugby league for 5 hours or more in the two weeks prior to interview were aged 12 to 14 years. Boys in the younger age groups were less likely to have participated for 5 hours or more in the two weeks prior to interview with only 36% of those who reported participating for this amount of time aged 9 to 11 years and 16% aged 5 to 8 years.

Males who participated for 5 hours or more in rugby league, By age - 2009
Graph: Males who participated for 5 hours or more in rugby league, By age - 2009


While joining a sports club or association, and playing and training outside of school hours is one of the pathways that children may take towards participation in both national and international competitions, it must also be matched with high levels of dedication and a desire to go for gold. It is also equally important, however, that Australian children are engaged in sport for enjoyment, and also to improve their overall health and well-being. Just being a participant, whether it's in the local junior team or in the Commonwealth Games, makes every child a winner!

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ENDNOTES

1. Australian Sports Commission - Long Term Involvement, Accessed on 10th September, 2010 <http://www.ausport.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/144611/Long_Term_Involvement.pdf>

2. Australian Sports Commission - Forming Links, Accessed on 10th September, 2010<http://www.ausport.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/144619/Forming_Links.pdf>

3. World Health Organisation - Health and Development through physical activity in sport, Accessed on 10th September, 2010 <http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/2003/WHO_NMH_NPH_PAH_03.2.pdf>

4. 2010 Australian Commonwealth Games - Team Handbook, Accessed on 21st October, 2010 <http://www.commonwealthgames.org.au/templates/Games_PastGames_Delhi2010_TeamHandbook.pdf>

5. Commonwealth Games Australia - Quick Facts, Accessed on 21st October, 2010 <http://www.commonwealthgames.org.au/Templates/Games_QuickFacts.htm>

6. Wikipedia - Commonwealth Games, Accessed on 30th November, 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonwealth_Games>

7. Australian Sports Commission - Swimming, Accessed on 13th September, 2010 < http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/sports/swimming/home>

8. Australian Sports Commission - Getting young people involved, Accessed on 10th September, 2010 <http://www.ausport.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/144612/Getting_young_people_involved.pdf>

9. Australian Commonwealth Games Association (ACGA) - High Achievers, Accessed on 21st October, 2010 <http://www.commonwealthgames.org.au/templates/Games_HighAchievers.htm>

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