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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
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Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Sport Participation

In 2013, Sport Canada defined sport as: "An activity that involves two or more participants engaged for the purpose of competition. Sport involves formal rules and procedures, requires tactics and strategies, specialized neuromuscular skills, and a high degree of difficulty and effort."

Sport Participation in Canada

The Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute (2013) concluded that 74% of children participated in sport in Canada. The research was conducted across Canada; however, the sport participation rates varied across the provinces and territories. The Yukon Territory and Saskatchewan had the highest rates of overall child sport participation (Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, 2013). Also, there were diverse participation rates amongst boys and girls. In 2010-2011, more boys participated in sport than girls (Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, 2013).

There are a lot of sports children can choose to participate in. The results of the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute (2013) survey indicated that amongst children, the most popular sport was soccer followed by hockey and swimming. When comparing the sport of choice between genders, there were a high proportion of boys participating in hockey, basketball, and baseball whereas a higher proportion of girls participated in swimming, volleyball, and gymnastics. When participating in sports, the amount of time ranged from the highest of four times per week to one to two times per week for children (Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, 2013).

Canadian Sport for Life

In order to get children to participate in sport, there is the Long-Term Athlete Development Model (LTAD). The LTAD model helps the physical development of athletes from young to adult-age in sport. There are a total of six stages: Active Start, FUNdamental, Learn to Train, Train to Train, Train to Compete, Train to Win, and Active for Life. In regards to a child's development in sport, the first three stages are important (Canadian Sport Centres, 2011).

Active Start Stage (0-6 yrs.): Children develop the fundamental movement skills by participating in daily active play. The fundamental movement skills provide a stepping-stone for the development of fundamental sport skills at older ages (Canadian Sport Centres, 2011).
FUNdamental Stage (Girls 6-8yrs.; Boys 6-9 yrs.): Children continue the development of fundamental movement skills through structured programs. The type of environment for skill development should be both safe and challenging. Also, while participating in sport programs, there should be instruction from knowledgeable coaches (Canadian Sport Centres, 2011).
Learn to Train Stage (Girls 8-11 yrs.; Boys 9-12 yrs.): This stage is important for sport-specific skills. There is an adaptation to skills training and fine motor control. Also, a child realizes their improvement and enjoys practicing their skills (Canadian Sport Centres, 2011).

Benefits of Sport Participation

While developing the skills from the LTAD model and participating in sport, there are several benefits. There are physical benefits such as improved fitness, movement skills, and muscle strength. Importantly, the physical benefits decrease the risk of childhood obesity (Wijtzes et al., 2014). Also, there are psychological and psychosocial benefits such as improvements in confidence, discipline, teamwork skills, and mental health (Wijtzes et al., 2014).

Why do Children Participate in Sport?

Children may participate in sport for the development of movement skills and the physical benefits. However, there are other reasons a child participates in sport. The reasons are to socialize with peers and the enjoyment of playing sport. When participating in sport, children had more fun when there is less of a focus on winning and they participated in different types of sport activities (Allender, Cowburn, & Foster, 2006). It is important for a parent to understand the needs of their child, and to monitor their child's emotions to see if their child is enjoying participating in a particular sport program. If the child enjoys participating in sport, the child is more likely to be active for their whole life (Canadian Sport Centres, 2011).

Socioeconomic Factors in Sport Participation

Although there are benefits to sport participation, and children enjoy participating in sport, there can be some socioeconomic barriers. There are sports in Canada that can be expensive, as a parent needs to purchase equipment and pay for fees. When a child is from a low-income household they are less likely to participate in sport. In particular, children from households with an income of less than $40,000 had a participation rate of 58% whereas a household income of $80,000 and greater had a participation rate of 85% (Government of Canada, 2013). Also, a child from a single-parent household is less likely to participate in sport compared to a two-parent household (Government of Canada, 2013). This may relate to the financial barrier, as the household income may be half of a two-parent household income.


As previously mentioned, there can be multiple expenses for a child to participate in sport, but there are programs that can help subsidize the costs of these sport programs. For example, the KidSport program is an organization in Canada that provides financial support for children to participate in sport for one season (KidSport, 2013). The organization helps lower-income households by distributing grants that can range from $150 to $200 (Province of British Columbia, 2015).


It is important for a parent to know their child will be safe when participating in sport. For example, the SportSafe program in British Columbia addresses issues in safety such as sport injuries, violence, and harassment. The program provides resources to sport organizations and coaches to help in the implementation of safety protocols and creation of safer environments (Province of British Columbia, 2015). It is not only important for a parent to know their child is safe, but also for the child to feel safe. When a child feels safe, they are more likely to continue sport participation and enjoy the physical and social benefits of sport (Province of British Columbia, 2015).

Practical Recommendations for Parents

Sport participation can be a useful tool to aide in the development of movement skills in young children. The Long-Term Athlete Development Model from Canadian Sport for Life can be a useful tool to understand the progressions of an athlete. Also, it is important to understand the needs and interests of your child, so they can enjoy participating in a sport of their choice. In addition, parental support and involvement can continue a child's participation in sport. When participating in sport, it is better to engage in a variety of sport activities, because it allows for the development of different functional movement skills. If you specialize too early in sport it can limit motor skill development and may lead to negative physical and psychological effects, such as injuries and burnout (Baker, 2003).


Overall, sport participation rates for children vary across Canada. There are many benefits in sport participation such as improvements in physical and psychological health, and skill development. Although, there can be some barriers to sport participation, for example, financial barriers for low-income households, there are resources that can be accessed online from sport organizations as well as provincial websites for financial assistance. When a child enjoys participating in sport, they are more likely to continue throughout their lifetime, and importantly, the development of skills at an early age can have a positive impact later on in life.


Allender, S., Cowburn, G., & Foster, C. (2006). Understanding participation in sport and physical activity among children and adults: a review of qualitative studies. Health Education Research, 21(6), 826-835. doi: 10.1093/her/cy1063

Baker, J. (2003). Early specialization in youth sport: a requirement for adult expertise? High ability studies,14(1), 85-94. doi: 10.1080/13598130304091

Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute. (2013). Bulletin 1: Participation in sport among children and youth. Retrieved from 1147/files/CFLRI%20PAM%202010-2011_Bulletin%201%20EN.pdf

Canadian Sport Centres. (2011). Canadian sport for life: LTAD stages. Retrieved from http://

Government of Canada. (2013). Canadian Heritage: Sport participation 2010- research paper. Retrieved from eng.pdf

KidSport. (2013). About kidsport. Retrieved from

Province of British Columbia. (2015). Resources for parents, coaches and others. Retrieved from

Province of British Columbia. (2015). Sport safety and injury prevention-sportsafe. Retrieved from

Wijtzes, A., Jansen, W., Bouthoorn, S.H., Pot, N., Hofman, A., Jaddoe, V.W.V., & Raat, H. (2014). Social inequalities in young children’s sports participation and outdoor play. International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, 11, 1-10. doi: 10.1186/s12966-014-0155-3