Physical Activity and Sport Participation Following the Transition From Secondary School to Tertiary Study: An Insight Into the Changes in, and Influence of, Motives, Negotiation Strategies, and Constraints

Wilson, Oliver W. A.
Walters, Simon
Naylor, Michael
Clarke, Jenny
Item type
Degree name
Master of Sport and Exercise
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Auckland University of Technology

Though physical activity and sport participation (participation) tends to decline across the lifespan, the decrease is pronounced following the transition from secondary school to tertiary study (transition). Many factors influence tertiary student participation, including socio-demographic variables, motives for participation, and the ability to employ negotiation strategies to overcome perceived constraints to participation. There is limited research on changes in participation following the transition, and more importantly the factors that influence participation, particularly in New Zealand (NZ). This cross-sectional component mixed methods study explores changes in participation following the transition, and the factors that influence participation following this transition. Data was collected from 121 first-year students at a NZ university during 2015 using an online questionnaire following students? end-of-year exams. Data was collected on the: participation duration and frequency, and types of physical activity in relation to secondary school and tertiary study; various socio-demographic variables; motives, negotiation strategies, and constraints using items drawn from previously validated instruments; and, changes in participation, motives, negotiation strategies, and constraints using open-ended questions. The underlying structures of motive, negotiation, and constraint instruments were analysed using principal axis factoring. Differences between groups were explored using complementary parametric and non-parametric techniques, and relationships between variables were explored using parametric techniques. Thematic analysis identified the dominant themes and sub-themes in qualitative data. The study found that students? participation had decreased significantly following the transition. Students? participation preferences/patterns had shifted: from participation in team/group sports to participation in individual/independent physical activities; and, to less competitive and/or more social forms of sport. Constraints had a negative relationship with participation, whereas motives and negotiation had significant positive relationships with participation. Partial correlation analysis revealed negotiation mediated the relationship between motives and participation, which is consistent with extant literature. Motives, negotiation, and constraints differed significantly based on socio-demographic variables and participation levels, and between participants and non-participants in different types of physical activity. Intrapersonal constraints emerged as the greatest constraints after time constraints, which in contrast to existing theories would appear to represent a distinct type of constraints and/or bridge intrapersonal, interpersonal and structural constraints. The findings of this thesis are key to understanding what influences tertiary student participation following the transition, and perhaps beyond. Results provide evidence to inform policy and the development of interventions to be employed within a tertiary institution setting. Until tertiary institutions, and society for that matter, place a priority on facilitating tertiary students to form life-long physical activity habits during this critical period in their lives student physical activity is unlikely to increase, and in fact will likely to continue to decrease.

Student , Physical activity , Sport , Motives , Constraints , Negotiation , Gender , New Zealand
Publisher's version
Rights statement