The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
RME and MMC contributed to the study design, interpretation of results, manuscript conceptualisation and preparation. JTH and MJC contributed to the study design, data management, statistical analysis and interpretation, manuscript conceptualisation and preparation. JAY and WRP contributed to the interpretation of results and manuscript preparation. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.
Many children are not physically active enough for a health benefit. One avenue of physical activity is modified sport programs, designed as an introduction to sport for young children. This longitudinal study identified trends in participation among children aged 4–12 years. Outcomes included continuation in the modified sports program, withdrawal from the program or transition to club sport competition.
De-identified data on participant membership registrations in three popular sports in the Australian state of Victoria were obtained from each sport’s state governing body over a 4-year period (2009–2012 for Sport A and 2010–2013 for Sports B and C). From the membership registrations, those who were enrolled in a modified sports program in the first year were tracked over the subsequent three years and classified as one of: transition (member transitioned from a modified sport program to a club competition); continue (member continued participation in a modified sport program; or withdraw (member discontinued a modified program and did not transition to club competition).
Many modified sports participants were very young, especially males aged 4–6 years. More children withdrew from their modified sport program rather than transitioning. There were age differences between when boys and girls started, withdrew and transitioned from the modified sports programs.
If we can retain children in sport it is likely to be beneficial for their health. This study highlights considerations for the development and implementation of sport policies and programming to ensure lifelong participation is encouraged for both males and females.