Participation in sport and influencing factors

People have different preferences and reasons for choosing to participate in sport and their choice is influenced by a number of factors including:

  • age
  • gender
  • ethnicity
  • disability
  • socio-economic status

Only some factors have an element of choice. For example, individuals can choose their friends, but other factors are not, such as gender or age.

Some factors may change over time. Everyone gets older or someone who was non-disabled may develop a disability later in life.

Some factors are beyond an individual's control. People cannot change their ethnicity and children cannot choose their family background.

Some social factors are linked to physiological factors. For example:

  • ageing may affect an individual's flexibility
  • a disability may affect how someone performs a skill
  • puberty affects girls' and boys' bodies differently and at different times

Social factors are interlinked. Everybody has an age, gender and ethnicity. Each of these may have a different influence in different situations.

It is important not to make assumptions about individuals based on social factors but to understand the influence of social factors on people. This can help to improve their participation in sport and physical activity. Understanding helps to create empathy, tackle inequality and promote inclusion.