Report highlights life ‘transitions’ as reasons for adults dropping out of sport

ESRI report finds high drop-out level from Gaelic games

  At the launch  of  the Pembroke Communications Sports Sentiment Index wais  Irish Sports Council  chief exeuctive John Treacy. Photograph:  Barry Cregg/Sportsfile

At the launch of the Pembroke Communications Sports Sentiment Index wais Irish Sports Council chief exeuctive John Treacy. Photograph: Barry Cregg/Sportsfile

Thu, Dec 19, 2013, 01:01


Work commitments are cited as the main reason why more adults are dropping out of taking part in sport than are taking it up. The Keeping Them in the Game: Taking Up and Dropping Out of Sport and Exercise in Ireland report says physical activity is “directly linked” to the likelihood that an individual develops a serious illness such as heart disease and cancer.

Whether people are active in their adult lives is not primarily linked to whether they were active as children but by “transitions that occur as they grow up and progress through adulthood”. Chief among these transitions are “leaving school or college, work commitments, relocations and increased family responsibilities”.

Dropping out from all sport and exercise activity is “much more likely” if a person participates in only team sport. The drop-out rate from team sports played at school and college is “severe”, says the report.

Individual sports have a lower rate of drop-out and higher rate of take-up than team sports. Cycling and “particularly” swimming are more likely to persist into later adulthood.

Swimming accounts for more than 40 per cent of activity undertaken by those aged over 40, that was first taken up at primary school.

The research estimates that among participants aged 16 and over, more than 75 per cent of basketball players, 53 per cent of hurlers and 52 per cent of Gaelic football players will have dropped out of the sport within three to four years. The estimate for soccer is lower, at 23 per cent, while for the most popular individual activities, the rate of drop-out is lower again.

Work commitments are the most common reason given for dropping out from all types of activity. Among team sports, leaving school or college is cited as a factor by more than one- third of drop-outs.

Moving house or losing touch with other players are also more important factors for dropping out from team sports than from individual activities. Family commitments are more commonly cited by those who drop out from individual sports.

Some factors cited for the “high rate” of drop-out in Gaelic games include leaving school or college, moving house, losing touch with other players, a change in the way the sport was organised or a loss of interest.

“Most of these factors suggest that, relative to soccer, there is some source of inflexibility in playing Gaelic games that makes it difficult for young people to continue playing either side of other important transitions in their lives,” the report says.

The factors driving drop-out and take-up also lead to “a widening gap” between socioeconomic groups. Better-off individuals are “more likely” to participate in sport, “mainly because of different opportunities” rather than different beliefs regarding the benefits.

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