Sport: why participation is more important than gold medals


You could be excused for missing the recent release of the Sport 2030 report, by Sport Australia. In brief it says that high performance sport (read gold medals) has become an arms race AUS can’t maintain, and that there will be much more focus on increasing participation rates of kids in sport and other general physical activity.


This seems sensible to me.  Kids aren’t doing enough exercise despite evidence that active kids do better at school and an active youth means you are more likely to remain healthy and fit throughout life. Sport, particularly team sports promote inclusion and teach resilience, teamwork, perseverance as well as the life lessons gained by both winning and losing.

Sport also plays a role in driving social change. It’s been great to see the rise in women’s and para-sport which has helped change community perceptions.

So, if participation is the objective, how do we make it happen? This is an even bigger challenge for girls who have lower sports team participation rates, which declines even more as they get older.

Research shows the most important thing to girls in team sports is having fun, not winning. So, what do they define as ‘fun’ vs ‘not-fun'


As a parent I have definitely guilty of some of the things in the NOT FUN category but I am working on it. I can’t seem to stop the running commentary while the basketball game is on, but it’s becoming a quieter conversation with myself not the world. One the way home I just chat about the world, while my son zones out feeling exhausted and probably thinking about the game a bit too!

If your girl is looking to join a team it would be worth finding one that values FUN. These are the sort of things I would be looking for: are there any players she knows, do other kids enjoy playing, is it local, and what’s the philosophy of the club/coach. Also ask yourself how you can help support them and the team in keeping it FUN, rather than assume it’s someone else’s job to do so. Research shows that beyond FUN the best determinant of a kid staying at a sport is when their parents are involved.

A few of these videos might be worth a look, showing what kids hate about parent behaviour during and after a game.