Children's Experiences of Sport - A Case Study
It is widely recognized that sport can offer a range of health benefits for children, encompassing physical, social, emotional and psychological domains. Despite this, research both internationally and in New Zealand suggests that attrition rates for youth participating in sport after the age of 15 years are high. A range of reasons have been highlighted as to why children drop out of sport which include a lack of fun, limited playing time and perceptions of poor teaching or coaching, or pressure from parents. Parents and coaches have therefore been identified as key influencers whose actions and involvement can determine children’s sporting experiences. The purpose of this qualitative descriptive case study was to explore children’s (aged 7-13 years) experiences of sport within a New Zealand context. It was hoped that the information and experiences provided by the participants in this case study could be used to improve the experiences of children engaging in adult controlled sport in the future.
The focus of this instrumental case study were: a 12-week urban-based community led tag rugby programme; capturing the perspectives of children (aged 7-13 years) who participated in the programme; the perspectives of parents of these children who attended a ‘culture change’ educational workshop (a Good Sports community module); and researcher observations of both the sporting environment experienced by these children, and of the Good Sports community module delivered for the parents. A total of 14 children, and 4 parents were involved in focus group discussions (children) and individual interviews (parents). These focus groups and individual interviews were used to capture the perspectives of both children and parents’ who were involved in the tag rugby programme and Good Sports community module. Self-determination theory provided the theoretical framework for analysis, which revealed factors that either enhanced or undermined children’s enjoyment of sport.
From the perspectives of children and parents who were involved in this case study it was discovered that in line with literature on children’s sport, fun was the main reason these children played sport. However, some children did place some importance on winning. Findings from this case study suggest that the importance placed on winning may be a result of these children viewing the need to win and perform well as a means to make their family proud of them. The triangulated findings of this case study suggest that a child’s ideal sporting environment should involve: freedom to socialise with friends and team-mates; equal game time for all; the opportunity to make their families proud; positive sideline comments to both teams playing; less emphasis on winning; and for parents to just be there and show a genuine interest in their sport participation.
Findings from this case study are not designed to be generalizable to a larger population, but in line with the purpose of an instrumental case study, it is argued that these findings can be used to facilitate insights for the reader to enable a deeper understanding of the phenomenon studied, which is to help determine what creates a positive sporting environment for children.