Adolescents' perception of the relationship between movement skills, physical activity and sport



Publication Details

Barnett, L., Cliff, K., Morgan, P. & van Beurden, E. (2013). Adolescents' perception of the relationship between movement skills, physical activity and sport. European Physical Education Review, 19 (2), 271-285.


Movement skill competence is important to organised youth physical activity participation, but it is unclear how adolescents view this relationship. The primary aim of this study was to explore adolescents' perception of the relationship between movement skills, physical activity and sport, and whether their perceptions differed according to extent of participation in organised physical activities. We recruited 33 (17 male) Grade 11 and 12 students (aged 16 to 18) from two secondary schools in Australia. Focus groups were allocated according to whether or not students participated in organised physical activity, where 'organised activity' was defined as activity which involved regular classes, training or competition, was reasonably structured or formal, or had a teacher, instructor or coach. There were three all-male 'organised' groups, one mixed-gender 'organised' group and one all-female 'not-organised' group. Students were asked about their attitudes towards physical activity and sport, the relationship between childhood skill proficiency and later physical activity and their perceptions of the appropriate time taken to learn movement skills. Group discussions lasted for approximately 50 minutes, were recorded and were then transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were read using a constant comparison method, in which quotes were continually compared to other quotes. A thematic analysis was conducted in which the transcripts were analysed inductively. Participation in organised sport had no bearing on opinions regarding whether lack of childhood skill development would negatively impact latter participation. It did, however, subtly influence opinions regarding whether skill could be successfully acquired later in life. When asked whether not having well-developed skills as a child would negatively impact on participation in sport/physical activity later in life, the response was mixed, but this was not related to their involvement in organised sport or activities. Students who believed early skill proficiency related to subsequent activity thought this was due to skill ability and motivation. An alternate view was that subsequent activity did not need to be based on skill proficiency; also, one's environment might change, resulting in differing opportunities/constraints. Students felt skills could be learnt at any time in life (dependent on motivation), but that learning skills at a younger age would be easier and that skills learnt later would not be as developed. Fear of failure was identified as a barrier to learning when older. We conclude that motivation towards participation in sport and physical activity is affected by adolescents' perception of their own movement skill ability. Therefore, developing children's actual and perceived movement skills may help to increase adolescent physical activity. Since those with intrinsic achievement orientations were not as inclined towards organised activity, we may also need to provide physical activity options that resonate with intrinsic achievement motivations.

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