An oft-cited study by Gould, Feltz and Weiss of Michigan State University’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, found seven primary motivators for children’s sports participation:
- Skill development
- Excitement and personal challenge
- Achievement and status
- Energy or tension release
If fun is the primary motivator for sports participation, and sports participation is an important factor in overall physical activity and health, creating fun experiences, especially initially, is an important means for increasing physical activity and improving health.
Those who participate in organized activities show higher rates of moderate-intensity and moderate-frequency physical activity (Santos, et al). Unfortunately, children today do not participate as often or as intensely in unorganized physical activities as in previous generations, which increases the importance of organized sports leagues and programs. Participation in community sports also has a positive correlation to increased physical activity (Sallis, et. al).
Those from a higher socio-economic status participate in more organized activities (Santos, et al), likely due to an ability to afford the fees of organized leagues, teams and clubs. Access to facilities has correlated positively with increased physical activity (Sallis, et al.), yet not everyone has equal access to facilities. Affluent students participate in a wider range of activities with greater participation rates than do those from poorer families (Wright et al).
For poorer students, school physical education and school sports may be more important for overall physical activity than for middle-class or affluent students because of access to equipment and facilities (Wright et al) which further underscores the detrimental effects of cutting or reducing physical education classes and after-school sports activities. Only 49% of students in high school are enrolled in physical education, and only 27% attend P.E. daily (Aaron, et al).
Since the decline of physical activity is pronounced as students move from middle school to high school (Santos, et al) with an “age-related decline of 26% to 37% in total physical activity during adolescence” (Aaron, et al), school sports that cut participants reduce opportunities for physical activity.
Students who are physically inactive in middle school are very unlikely to initiate an activity in high school (Aaron, et al), which highlights the importance of sports participation in elementary and middle school.
When those who have not participated in organized sports were surveyed, 75% of the children said they wanted to play but felt that they lacked the skills or talent (Chambers). Therefore, competitive sports which cut athletes may not only limit participation, but prevent some from trying out.
Playmakers Basketball Development Leagues are designed to be less expensive than typical youth basketball leagues and all inclusive: there are no cuts. PBDLs emphasize fun and skill development, the top two motivators for youth sports participation. While many schools cut sports and reduce physical education, PBDLs strive to provide a safe environment for players of all levels to learn and develop skills, thus giving more children the confidence to participate in basketball, whether on school teams or just in pick-up games for fun.
- Aaron D.J., Storti K.L., Robertson R.J., Kriska A.M., LaPorte R.E. Longitudinal study of the number and choice of leisure time physical activities from mid to late adolescence: implication for school curricula and community recreation programs. Arch Pediatric Adolescent Med. 2002;156: 1075–1080.
- Chambers, S. T. (1991). Factors affecting elementary school student’s participation in sports. Elementary School Journal, 91(5), 413-419.
- Gould, D., Feltz, D., & Weiss, M. (1985). Motives for participating in competitive youth swimming. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 16, 126-140.
- Sallis J.F., Prochaska J.J., Taylor W.C.: A review of correlates of physical activity of children and adolescents. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2000, 32:963–975.
- Santos, M. P., C. Esculcus, and J. Mota. The relationship between socioeconomic status and adolescents’ organized and non-organized physical activities. Pediatric Exercise Science.16:210 –218, 2004.
- Wright, J., MacDonald, D. & Groom, L. (2003) Physical activity and young people: Beyond participation. Sport Education and Society. 8(1), 17-34.
By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League