An additional $158m was allocated in the Federal Budget to Sports AUS & the AIS with a primary objective to increase sports participation rates amongst kids/youth. $42.4m of that is earmarked for community sports infrastructure program for clubs.
While I agree that infrastructure and improving facilities is important, I feel it only addresses one part of the challenge of increasing and sustaining youth sports participation rates.
Studies have highlighted three major barriers to participation across 8-14 year olds:
some kids don’t like sport or see it as not fun
perception of not enough time/too many other commitments
parents can't afford it/transport
Parachuute research has shed extra light into parent’s perspective on participation. Recent findings revealed that 59% of families had prevented their child participating in something they wanted to do because:
it costs too much (54%)
they couldn’t get them there / fit it into the family schedule (72%)
kids have too much on already (37%)
It’s not surprising that cost is a barrier for many families, given the average cost of one child participating in a sports code is $1,100, not including the estimated $450 in travel related costs.
Some state governments have started to address participation costs via rebates. These vary by state between $100-$150 per child, with some states means testing and others paying directly to clubs. Administrators claim the schemes are a success with reportedly large numbers of additional enrolments into sports.
What I can’t see anyone tackling is the issue of logistics, which is surprising given the impact it could have on participation. Parents whose kids are participating are spending almost 6 hours per week taking them to sports. This means there are two issues from a logistics perspective: (a) people whose kids do participate and as a result they spend a significant amount of time driving them from A to B, and (b) others whose kids don’t participate because they can’t find a way to get them there.
How much impact would we see to participation levels if everything was easier for kids and parents from a logistical perspective?
At Parachuute we think there is a big opportunity, particularly in growth corridors, to increase participation. Some of the ideas for making this happen include:
a) council or clubs helping parents connect with others whose kids are doing the same activity so they could share the driving/volunteering load. We understand that clubs already have a lot to manage, but when prompted 60% of parents thought it would be a big help if clubs helped them to connect with parents who were interested in carpooling
b) extend inclusiveness beyond the field so that parents who can’t get their kids to training can easily call on other parents, or paid services to help
We are currently running trials with a number of sports clubs to test if helping connect parents at the club/team level for carpooling creates a greater sense of community/social connectedness amongst both kids and parents, thereby leading to greater participation and retention of kids in these sports.
If your club wants to be part of this movement to make it easier for parents to help their kids participate please reach out to Parachuute at email@example.com or register your interest at www.parachuute.com.
Updates to follow as we measure the impact of our trials.