d) Barriers to joining Sports Clubs

The barriers identified by the research indicated that barriers were different at different stages of an individual’s life but could be grouped into three different types:

  • Personal
  • Practical
  • Perceptual

Personal Barriers (Practical)

  • A lack of time due to other changing life styles and priorities (most common barrier)
  • Inflexibility of club schedule and fixtures
  • Lack of information about what participation options are available.  (People who may want to participate in the club activities simply don’t know what is available to them.)
  • Many respondents indicated they wanted to participate but playing sports made them feel “embarrassed or self-conscious‟.
  • Financial restrictions
  • Competition from non sports related options
  • Changing dynamic of the community brought about by the immigration of non-European speaking residents
  • Often entrenched attitudes and behaviours of clubs which lead to the preferential treatment of some members (those more highly skilled) whereby others come to feel less valued by their clubs.
  • Behaviours in clubs which focus on identifying and funnelling resources to the most talented and dedicated individuals and teams at the expense of the broader club membership base
  • Many people feel pressured to undertake non sport activities such as fundraising and club administration which they didn’t enjoy or didn’t have the time to undertake

There was a consistent feeling that this results in the preferential treatment of more talented or dedicated athletes who are prioritised above the broader base leaving some feeling less encouraged or inclined to continue or further their participation.

Perceptual Barriers

Many people have perceptual barriers to sports participation.  Much of this is related to the competitive element of sport with many people believing sport is “taken too seriously‟ with many disliking the competitive nature of sport.

The research also showed that clubs were perceived to be “cliquey, exclusive, single minded and often highly judgmental of non-participants or those with a lower level of ability at sport.  A general consensus was that clubs only operate an “open door‟ policy to those with sufficient ability and commitment.”

Many people surveyed as part of the research “felt they were incapable of achieving success as they perceive their skill level to be too low.  They didn’t feel confident in being able to break into the social scene, or felt unable or unwilling to put in the perceived commitment necessary. Furthermore, they felt acceptance would take a significant commitment in time which would be to the detriment of other interests/commitments. Many of respondents saw having a competitive nature as a pre-requisite for club participation.”

“Perceptions of club members and clubs as intrinsically exclusive, judgmental, and overly competitive can put a lot of potential participants off. For many the overriding conclusion was that they were not the “type‟ that clubs would be interested in.

“Furthermore it was felt that many clubs revolve around core groups of members who non-club members presumed have known each other for a long time, may span across generations, and that these groups were „closed‟ or extremely difficult to access.”

More Club Participation Information

a) Club Participation
b) Membership
c) Benefits of Club Membership
d) Barriers to Joining Sports Clubs
e) Understanding the ‘funneling’ effect of Sports Participation
f) Re-engaging past Club members
g) Strategies Clubs can use to Attract and Retain Members
h) Disability Inclusion


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