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Factors affecting participation in sport

Factors affecting participation in sport

This comprehensive article explores the key factors affecting participation in sport. There is no doubt that participation in sports is essential for physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It contributes to a healthy lifestyle, fosters social connections, and promotes a sense of accomplishment. However, various factors can influence an individual’s decision to participate in sports, which this article discusses in detail.


Personal factors affecting participation in sport


Age and gender

Personal factors, such as age and gender, play a crucial role in determining an individual’s involvement in sports. For example, children and adolescents are more likely to engage in sports due to their higher energy levels, while older individuals may face physical limitations that hinder their participation.


In the UK, fewer women than men participate in sports. The reasons for this are discrimination, low self-esteem, lack of opportunity, culture, competition with other activities and so on (BBC, 2023).


Ability and skill level

Ability and skill level can also significantly impact on people’s participation in sports. Those who are naturally talented or have acquired skills through practice and training may feel more comfortable and confident engaging in sports.


Personal interests

One of the key factors affecting participation in sport in personal interest. For example, someone who values teamwork may be drawn to team sports, while someone who prefers solitude and self-discipline may opt for individual sports such as swimming or tennis.


According to Statista (2023) over 19% of the US population engage in sports and exercise each day. A very good percentage of people do the same as well in many countries such as UK, Germany, Brazil, Turkey, India, and Japan. Personal interests such as staying healthy, weight loss, and improving and maintaining physical strength are the main reasons behind it.


Social factors affecting participation in sport


Family and peer support

Encouragement and reinforcement from parents, siblings, and friends can foster a positive attitude toward sports and motivate individuals to participate.


Conversely, lack of support or negative attitudes from family and friends can discourage individuals from engaging in sports and potentially lead to feelings of isolation or exclusion.


Influencers and role models

Influencers and role models play a crucial role in shaping an individual’s attitudes and behaviors towards sports. Athletes and coaches who display desirable qualities, such as determination, discipline, and sportsmanship, can inspire others to emulate these traits and participate in sports.


Cultural factors affecting participation in sport


Cultural values

Cultural factors, such as values and traditions, can influence an individual’s participation in sports. For example, cultures that prioritize physical activity and sports as essential components of a well-rounded education and lifestyle are more likely to have higher levels of participation.


Cultural representation in sports

When people see participants from their own cultural background succeeding and being celebrated in sports, it can inspire them to participate and break down barriers.


Conversely, a lack of representation may lead to feelings of exclusion and discourage individuals from certain cultural backgrounds from engaging in sports.


Tiger Woods, Jackie Robinson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Bo Jackson, Mike Tyson, Florence Griffith Joyner, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Serena Williams, and Simone Biles are some of the greatest superstars of all time. Their astonishing success have encouraged millions of African Americans to participate in sports.


Environmental factors affecting participation in sport


Climate and weather conditions

People living in colder climates may be more inclined to engage in winter sports, while those in warmer climates may prefer outdoor sports that can be played year-round. Additionally, extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rain or snow, can hinder participation by making it unsafe or uncomfortable to engage in outdoor activities.


According to a study cited in Energym (2023) many people exercise less in very hot or cold weather because they prefer to stay indoors. As extreme heat poses a health risk, it can cause significant disruption to anyone’s sporting decisions.


Urban vs. rural settings

Those living in urban areas may have greater access to sports facilities and organised activities, while others in rural settings may face limited options and resources.


However, rural residents may have more opportunities to engage in informal sports and outdoor activities, such as hiking or fishing, which can contribute to overall physical activity levels.


Economic factors affecting participation in sport


Cost of participation

Cost of participation is one of the key factors affecting participation in sport. The cost of equipment, facility memberships, coaching fees, and travel expenses may create financial barriers for some individuals, particularly those from low-income households.


Availability of facilities and resources

The availability of facilities and resources is also very important. Individuals who have access to well-maintained sports facilities, equipment, and coaching resources are more likely to engage in sports.


Government funding and support

Government funding and support for sports programs and facilities can play a crucial role in promoting sport participation. Investment in sports infrastructure, such as the construction of sports facilities and provision of coaching resources, can make sports more accessible to a wider range of individuals.


Health and fitness factors affecting participation in sport


Physical health

People who are in good health may feel more capable and motivated to engage in sports, while those who suffer from illnesses or injuries may be limited in their ability to participate. In some cases, participation in sports can serve as a means of improving physical health and managing existing conditions.


Awareness of health benefits

Educating people about the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of sports, such as improved physical health, stress reduction, and enhanced self-esteem, can help to promote a positive attitude towards sports.


Psychological factors affecting participation in sport



Personal motivation is extremely important. Self-motivated people are more likely to engage in sports for personal enjoyment, self-improvement, or a sense of accomplishment.



Self-confidence can also be a deciding factor. People who believe that they have the ability to succeed in a particular sport are more likely to engage in that activity. Conversely, those who lack confidence in their abilities may avoid sports for fear of failure or embarrassment.


Strategies to increase sport participation

There are several strategies that sports organisations, and government institutions can employ to increase sport participation and create a more inclusive sports environment. These strategies include:


Providing access to sports facilities and equipment

Ensuring that people have access to well-maintained sports facilities and equipment is a crucial step towards promoting sports participation. Providing affordable or free access to these resources can help to reduce financial barriers and encourage participation of people from all walks of life.


Offering a variety of sports options

Offering a diverse range of sport options can help to cater to people’s personal interests and preferences. Providing both individual and team sports, as well as indoor and outdoor activities, can help to attract a wider range of participants.



Emphasizing the social and emotional benefits of sports

Emphasizing the social and emotional benefits of sports, such as building friendships, improving self-esteem, and promoting teamwork, can motivate individuals to participate in physical activities.


Addressing cultural and societal barriers

Addressing cultural and societal barriers such as gender stereotypes or lack of representation can help to create a more inclusive sports environment. Providing education and resources to promote cultural understanding and respect can help to break down these barriers and encourage participation among all groups.


Providing education about injury prevention and safety

Providing education and training about injury prevention and safety can help alleviate fears and concerns around sports participation. If people are well informed, they can feel more confident and safer when participating in sports.


Summary of factors affecting participation in sport

To conclude, there are several factors that can influence people’s decisions to participate in sports. By understanding these factors and implementing effective strategies to address them, organisations and government institutions can increase sports participation and create a more inclusive sports environment.


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Last update: 19 April 2023


BBC (2023) Social groupings and participation in sport, available at: (accessed 19 April 2023)

Energym (2023) Will climate change exercise and sport, available at: (accessed 19 April 2023)

Statista (2023) Physical Activity – Statistics & Facts, available at: (accessed 19 April 2023)

Author: Zia Ahmed

Graduated with a BA (Hons) in Sport Management from Loughborough University, UK. Ahmed writes regularly on sports science and relevant subjects. His other areas of interest are business development, customer service and social media marketing.

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