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AUSTRALIAN CHILDREN GOING FOR GOLD CHILDREN'S PARTICIPATION IN COMMONWEALTH GAMES SPORTS
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.
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%).
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 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 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.
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.
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
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).
NUMBER OF HOURS SPENT TRAINING
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%).
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).
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.
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).
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.
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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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>
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