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Meeting the Needs of Youth

Young people value sport. So why do participation rates consistently drop at similar ages? In this article, Sport New Zealand presents some research that adults need to take note of.

Introduction

Sport offers many benefits for young people both in the immediate and long term. These include improved physical and mental health, an improved cognitive foundation and academic achievement, development of life skills and an increased likelihood of adult participation. You can read more about the evidence associated with this in our 2017 report The Value of Sport.1

We need to know more about young people in order to offer them quality support, experiences and opportunities so they can develop the skills, confidence and motivation to participate in sport and active recreation.

To better understand the needs of young people, the insights approach can be used to improve the quality of support, experiences and opportunities.

The Insights Approach

What is the insights approach?

The insights approach uses multiple sources of information within the context you’re working in, to help you understand the needs of participants and to improve decision-making. The success of any project/ initiative/ programme is reliant on meeting the needs of the participant.

This article is Part one of a six-part series called Meeting the Needs of Youth: Theory to Practice. This series uses multiple sources of insights such as:

  • Big picture data – national participation through Active NZ
  • Voice of the participant – understanding participants needs through Secondary School Voice of Participant (SSVOP) Survey

The series will demonstrate the application of insights in secondary school students to action change to meet the needs of young people.

Part one will focus on national participation insights from 2017 Active NZ to provide a snapshot into how young people in New Zealand are participating in play, active recreation and sport at a national level.

Young People’s Participation

In any given week throughout the year:

  • 95% of young people aged 5 to 17 participate in sport and active recreation for an average of 11 hours per week, participating in 5.4 sports and activities.
  • 98% of young people aged 12 to 14 participate in sport and active recreation for an average of 12.5 hours per week, participating in 6.4 sports and activities.  
  • 89% of young people aged 15 to 17 years participate in sport and active recreation for an average of 8.3 hours per week, participating in 3.9 sport and activities.

A steep decline in participation occurs between the ages of 12–14 years and 15–17 years. Young people’s lives are busy and other commitments/ priorities often get in the way:

  • 42% of young people aged 5 to 17 years old state that being too busy is a barrier to participating in play, active recreation and sport.

Young people are busy with:

  • 72% say school work
  • 42% say other hobbies
  • 39% say it’s physical activity they are already doing

“Exercise is time consuming. I wish it could be an easy-going thing but you need to plan for it and make time for it. It would be better if you didn’t have to set time aside for it and have all things pushed back… I have so much work to do to get my credits in and so I have no time. Exams are coming and I need to focus on that.”3

Developing a better understanding of young people’s other commitments will help identify and structure opportunities that fit within their lives.

Questions to consider when working with young people include:

  • How might you support young people to stay engaged during life transitions; for example, when moving high school, taking exams, or change of seasons?
  • What flexibility can you build into your structure so young people can dip in and out as it suits?

How Young People Participate in Play, Active Recreation and Sport  

In any given week throughout the year:

  • Most weekly participation is in non-competitive sport and activities for young people aged 5 to 17 years.
  • On average young people aged 5 to 17 years spend 11 hours participating per week. Informal participation makes up 59% of that total time and the other 41% is organised.
  • Young people aged 12 to 14 years spend a total of 12.5 hours participating per a week. 6.1 hours per week is spent participating in organised sport and activities.
  • The amount of time spent participating drops by 4.2 hours between the ages of 12 to 14 years and 15 to 17 years. Both organised and informal participation in sport and activities drops by 2.3 hours per week. The biggest reduction in informal participation is time spent in play (2.5 hours) and in organised participation PE (1.3 hours).

32% of young people aged 5–17 years participate in competitive sport and activities (compared with 12% of adults).

Young people want to be challenged and have the opportunity to improve their skills at a level that suits them and their abilities.

“The fact I am being challenged both physically and mentally, while also having fun.”2

  • 32% of young people aged 12 to 17 years stated that their main reason for being active was to learn or practice new skills.
  • 81% of young people aged 12 to 17years agree with the statement “I love challenging myself and trying to win”.

Questions to consider when working with young people include:

  • How might you tailor your opportunity to the motivations of your audience?
  • How can you tailor you sessions to cater for multiple skill levels?

What Young People Want

Young people view Play, Active Recreation and Sport as ways to have fun and be with friends

“They could do more that involved physical activity for fun rather than just sports teams for going against other schools. Especially for those of us who didn’t do sports at primary and didn’t know how to play. More yoga and exercise that isn’t a team sport.”2

“I like having fun with my friends and meeting new people who are interested in the same sports as me.”2

It should be noted that the reasons for participating changes across the life span. Between the ages of 15 to 17 years participating for fun decreases and participating for physical wellbeing increases.

“Because it makes me feel healthy and fit and I love being active.”2

Participating for fitness and to look and feel good is more of a priority for young females than young males, particularly between the ages of 15 and 17 years.

Questions to consider when working with young people include:

  • What does fun mean to your young people? How can you engage them to find out?
  • How can you provide opportunities that are fun?
  • How could your activity reinforce friendship groups?
  • What opportunities could you create for new friendships?
  • Have you considered how you might challenge participants beyond physically, eg. mentally, socially, emotionally and spiritually?

Practical Application of Insights

Participation in play, active recreation and sport peaks between the ages of 12 to 14 years old, while a steep decline in participation occurs between the ages of 15 to 17 years. This is seen in both informal and organised activities. Motivations and what young people want from play, active recreation and sport change as participants age. It is important to understand why is this happening and what young people want, in order to offer young people quality support, opportunities and experiences.

While this article provides a snapshot of how young people are participating in play, active recreation and sport at a national level in New Zealand it is important to delve deeper and understand the ‘why’. Using multiple sources of information alongside each other is essential to ensure you have the full picture and can be truly participant-centred in your approach to meeting the needs of young people. Multiple sources of data comes together to tell a story of the ‘why’.

Part two and three of the Meeting the Needs of Youth: Theory to Practice series will provide other sources of information that come together to tell a full picture on how young people are participating in play, active recreation and sport in New Zealand.

If you would like more insights on how young people are participating in play, active recreation and sport nationally see our Young Peoples Profile or the main Active NZ Report.  

References

  1. Sport New Zealand (2017). The Value of Sport: Main Report 2017. Wellington: Sport New Zealand
  2. Sport Tasman & Sport Taranaki. (2018). Voice of the Participant Secondary School Project. Unpublished.
  3. Kantar TNS. (2017). Understanding Young Women and Teenage Girls and Their Attitude, Barriers and Motivations Around Being Active. Qualitative Research Findings for Sport New Zealand. Unpublished.
  4. Sport New Zealand (2018). Active NZ Main Report. The New Zealand Participation Survey 2017. Wellington: Sport New Zealand.
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