For teenagers, participation rates in sport activities are low, with latest figures showing just 40 per cent of high school students in Australia have participated in organised sport in the last year.
The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) released a report in November, 2017 titled Addressing the decline in sport participation in secondary schools which identifies four distinct cohorts of disconnected students and gives advice on how to motivate these schoolchildren.
The report is based on the findings of 6600 student surveys across 100 secondary schools throughout 2016 and 2017, site visits and follow-up focus groups. Parents, guardians and teachers were also surveyed. The average age of students interviewed was 13.9 years.
The authors of the report suggest that various barriers exist for different students who identify as disconnected from organised sport, such as increasing demands from other extra-curricular activities, or a lack of confidence in their ability.
Obstacles also exist for schools, the report notes. Issues like curriculum pressures (for example, needing to spend a lot of time delivering health and PE theory which restricts the time spent active) and an insufficient range of quality equipment are acknowledged as common problems.
Identifying why students may be disengaged
The four groups of disengaged students identified in the report are specific and distinct. In brief, they are:
The ASC has also outlined possible enthusiasm points in sport for these groups of disengaged students. Aspects of sport that the authors believe may interest these students include:
Planning valuable programs for students
Along with advice on how to foster a more positive relationship between disengaged students and sports programs, the ASC suggests schools consider these strategies to work at building students’ excitement and connection with sport: allowing students to spend the full school day in their sport uniform; inclusion of some form of novelty in the program; and, allow opportunity for versatile aspects to a sports program, because some students might prefer to spend the time concentrating on personal fitness, while others are more interested in the social aspect of PE.
As for the logistics of facilitating a sport program for disengaged students, the ASC has published 14 ‘pre-program questions’ for teachers to consult when planning their programs.
The report says it’s important to note that the student-deliverer ratio of 1:15 is essential as engagement levels are likely to drop as the number of students increase, even if there are more deliverers; meaning that a student-deliverer ratio of 3:45 is far less effective for engaging students.
Educators are also reminded to be conscious of students from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, where more physical and less verbal instructions may be necessary. According to the survey, CALD students are one of the most likely groups of students to not actively participate in sport, along with female and older students.