Australians spend more than $10 billion a year on sport and fitness activities, but keeping kids engaged in club games beyond 11 years old is proving a challenge, according to a landmark study into sports participation.
The Australian Sports Commission will today launch its inaugural AusPlay report, which examines everything from what sports people play, how much money they spend, and their motivation for getting active.
It is the only report of its kind since the Bureau of Statistics stopped collecting sport and recreation data in 2014, and is based on surveys of more than 20,000 adults and 4,000 children.
“It is very comprehensive and it is the first time we and all levels of the Government will have access to detailed information,” the Australian Sports Commission’s Paul Fairweather told ABC News Breakfast.
The report found the traditional big-hitters such as football (soccer), golf, Australian rules football and tennis were among the most popular organised sports for both children and adults, while walking topped the list for non-organised activity and gym memberships were also very popular.
It found Australians spend more than $10.7 billion a year on physical activities, which includes club fees and gym memberships, but that organised sports participation peaked for children aged between 9-11 before noticeably dropping off.
Mr Fairweather said organised sports needed to evolve to keep kids’ interest and fit with other demands.
“Once kids hit those teenage years they drop off … they’re really in the middle of education, they have a lot of social things happening in their life, they’re discovering boys and girls for the first time,” he said.
“I think what that means is that sport has to be more flexible and maybe offer shorter versions of the games; a lot of sports are doing that.
“They have to be more flexible in how they allow people to participate and how they allow them to become members.
“Sports need to evolve their games and the way they perform if they are to remain strong and we get more Australians being active.”
What motivates people to play sport
Mr Fairweather said the report found noticeable differences between why men and women played sports.
“Women are more likely to be focused on the physical, mental health benefits and maybe to lose weight, maintain their weight, and men, it is more about … fun and enjoyment and the social reasons,” he said.
“These are different things and sports need to think about that when they are marketing their product or developing or evolving their products.”
Among the other key findings of the report was that people were focused on the health benefits of sport and physical activity, and were not only on the social aspects.
About 80 per cent of survey respondents said they were motivated by the physical benefits of activities, compared to about 45 per cent who also cited fun or enjoyment.
“If you go back in the old days, competition was probably the key driver of the sports,” Mr Fairweather said.
“Now it is all about health and fitness, whether you are playing sport or physical activity.”