Sport & Connected Communities

Review of the research evidence on young people and sport – Nick Rowe, Sport England Research (March 2012)


This review focuses on the evidence we have about young people’s underlying attitudes and interest in sport drawing primarily but not exclusively from research commissioned by Sport England carried out over the last 10 years. The review is selective and not ‘systematic’ but it is likely that a wider trawl of research would in many cases replicate the general findings in this review rather than add new additional dimensions of insight.

The focus is on more qualitative aspects of participation rather than on the prevalence rates of participation. The review does, however, include reference to recent survey research carried out by Childwise to contextualise sports participation behaviours within broader leisure and lifestyle trends. It also makes reference to a report on young people’s interest in ‘lifestyle sports’ as this is an interesting additional dimension of participation that can often be overlooked – and in itself says something about what motivates many young people outside of the more traditional sporting offer.

The review includes reference to what we have learned from evaluation of ‘what works’ to get young people engaged and sustain that interest.

The final section summarises the key findings and puts forward a theoretical model that emerges from the qualitative research that provides the basis for a future research agenda.