Girls from The SD Raiders football club in South West Sydney pictured in Ashcroft today. Anika Stajcic (front left) and Isabel Inzitari (front right) pictured. Pic, Sam Ruttyn
Girls from The SD Raiders football club in South West Sydney pictured in Ashcroft today. Anika Stajcic (front left) and Isabel Inzitari (front right) pictured. Pic, Sam Ruttyn

Aussie girls missing out on sport

AUSSIE kids are playing more sport than ever before, but they're still getting fatter.

And while boys continue to get more active, girls participation is sliding.

News Corp Australia can reveal the latest participation data on kids sport from the Australian Sports Commission.
It shows in 2017, 3.5 million children aged 15 and under (74 per cent) participated in some form of organised sport or physical activity outside of school hours, compared with 3.2 million children (70 per cent) in 2016.

Girls from The SD Raiders football club in South West Sydney pictured in Ashcroft today. Pic, Sam Ruttyn
Girls from The SD Raiders football club in South West Sydney pictured in Ashcroft today. Pic, Sam Ruttyn

But while there was a jump in participation, 55 per cent of kids aged 12-14 still either don't like physical activity or see it as a priority, this falls to 25 per cent of 9-11yr olds and 18 per cent of 5-8yr olds.

And although participation increased in 2017 our children's waistlines are continuing to grow, with one in three children expected to be obese by 2028, according to Obesity Australia.

Junior soccer players from the Eltham Redbacks team in Melbourne. Picture: Supplied
Junior soccer players from the Eltham Redbacks team in Melbourne. Picture: Supplied

The top sporting activities nationally by participation for kids under the age of 15 in 2017 were swimming (31.8 per cent), soccer (14.1 per cent) and AFL (8.8 per cent).

For girls, the top activities were swimming (33.9 per cent), dancing recreational (14.7 per cent) and Netball (13.3 per cent).

AUSSIE PARENTS SPENDING 2.1 BILLION ON KIDS SPORTS AND FITNESS

For boys the top activities for 2017 were swimming (29.8 per cent), football/soccer (21.9 per cent) and AFL (14.6 per cent).

New South Wales junior rugby league players from the Botany Rams, Picton Magpies, Campbelltown Warriors and Arncliffe Scots Junior Rugby League Clubs participate in the Kids In Sport Initiative. Picture: NRL/ Supplied
New South Wales junior rugby league players from the Botany Rams, Picton Magpies, Campbelltown Warriors and Arncliffe Scots Junior Rugby League Clubs participate in the Kids In Sport Initiative. Picture: NRL/ Supplied

Swimming tops the list in all instances because for young children many parents prioritise learn to swim programs as their main activity outside of school hours.

The Australian Sports Commission's AusPlay report found children are more likely to participate in organised physical activity outside school hours if their parents participate in sports or physical activity, they come from a high-income family, or they have only 1 or 2 siblings.

Image of happy friends playing basketball on sports ground. Picture: iStock
Image of happy friends playing basketball on sports ground. Picture: iStock

Children from families with three or more siblings are less likely to play organised sport than their smaller family counterparts.

The gap between boys and girls participation is also widening, with fewer girls aged 12-14 interested in sport.

Junior soccer players from the Eltham Redbacks team in Melbourne. Picture: Supplied
Junior soccer players from the Eltham Redbacks team in Melbourne. Picture: Supplied

However in sports like soccer and AFL there is a surge in female participation - with both increasing their junior female participation by 6 per cent in 2017 from the previous year.

Kate Palmer, Australian Sports Commission CEO, welcomed the increase in participation but said more needs to be done to keep our kids healthy.

"Despite the fact we have an increase in participation Australians are still not active enough for the health outcomes we are trying to achieve and it is everyone's responsibility to improve our children's health," Ms Palmer said.

New South Wales junior rugby league players from the Botany Rams, Picton Magpies, Campbelltown Warriors and Arncliffe Scots Junior Rugby League Clubs participate in the Kids In Sport Initiative. Picture: NRL/ Supplied
New South Wales junior rugby league players from the Botany Rams, Picton Magpies, Campbelltown Warriors and Arncliffe Scots Junior Rugby League Clubs participate in the Kids In Sport Initiative. Picture: NRL/ Supplied

She also said the drop between boys and girls participation was of concern.

"We all should be worried about this and working on ways to improve the situation."

In 2017 the number of 9-11 year old girls participating in physical activity dropped by 7 per cent from 2016. In the 12-14-year-old cohort boys participation grew by 6 per cent while girls' participation stagnated.

Football Federation Australia's John Kent said soccer was increasingly the sport of choice for families, and particularly for girls.

New South Wales junior rugby league players from the Botany Rams, Picton Magpies, Campbelltown Warriors and Arncliffe Scots Junior Rugby League Clubs participate in the Kids In Sport Initiative. Picture: NRL/ Supplied
New South Wales junior rugby league players from the Botany Rams, Picton Magpies, Campbelltown Warriors and Arncliffe Scots Junior Rugby League Clubs participate in the Kids In Sport Initiative. Picture: NRL/ Supplied

"For young families, Football is a safe, fun, inclusive and accessible sport - that's why we are the most popular choice among this demographic," Mr Kent said.

"Football is a great introduction to team sport, where kids learn the value of fair play and working together."

Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie said the government was committed to getting more kids active.

"Eighty-one per cent of Australian children are not meeting the daily recommended activity guidelines and one quarter of Aussie children are overweight or obese," Senator McKenzie said.

Junior soccer players from the Eltham Redbacks team in Melbourne. Picture: Supplied
Junior soccer players from the Eltham Redbacks team in Melbourne. Picture: Supplied

"We know that teenagers, especially girls, drop out of physical activity in their early teens. We also know this is the period in their lives they start forming lifelong habits.

"I am committed to increasing community participation in sport and physical activity more broadly so that every Australian can undertake exercise in a safe, fun and inclusive way."

Junior soccer players from the Eltham Redbacks team in Melbourne. Picture: Supplied
Junior soccer players from the Eltham Redbacks team in Melbourne. Picture: Supplied

The AusPlay report is put together from a survey of more than 20,000 people aged 15 and over. In 2017 a total of 3209 parents/guardians of children under the age of 15 provided information about their child's participation in organised physical activities outside school hours.


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