How to support juniors and grow the next generation of members.
To ensure sport is attractive to young people, clubs and
organisations must fully understand why young people participate in, and
drop out of sport.
This resource provides some simple guidelines for making sport more
youth-friendly, as well as showcasing initiatives that have successfully
addressed youth participation.
In 2013 the Australian Sports Commission released a report Children: Market Segmentation for Sport Participation.
The market segmentation study provided key insights outlining how the
sport sector can influence motivations and behaviours that children
have towards sport and physical activity.
During their growth from 5 to 17 years,
young people develop physically, psychologically, emotionally and
socially. These changes in young people are reflected in differences in:
Pathways need to be designed for young people to move progressively through sport and provide opportunities to:
Although sports have different requirements, they all have definite
stages in taking young people from their early involvement to being an
Generally, the progression moves through the following stages:
The aim of pathways planning for young people is to sequentially develop their sports skills to equip them to:
The planned developmental levels should also accommodate individual differences, because participants:
To encourage long-term involvement, it is important young people are
able to participate in sport at the right level for their interests and
Training/practice and competition are important in meeting the aims
of junior sport, and must be tailored to the specific sport and
development level of the participants.
Training and practice vary for the different stages of participation in the:
Competition provides stimulation and challenge. It involves more than
winning or losing. Through competition, young people make friends and
experience loyalty, cooperation and learning through managing success
and mistakes, and coping with disappointments.
Competitive experiences should be planned to:
It is important that children are able to ‘play at sports’ in an
informal setting during their early development. Children need to:
This is best done through play in as wide a range of sports
activities as possible. In the process of doing this, participants are
Sports can be modified (rules, equipment size, degree of skill
difficulty etc.) to provide opportunities for success through a level of
challenge suited to the young participants.
To keep them motivated while developing basic motor skills and
concepts, young participants need to spend most of their playtime
experimenting with sport activities.
The role of sport providers is mainly to act as a resource that can:
When children are being introduced to sport or fundamental activities
it is best not to have formal competitions so that the focus can be
kept on participation, skill development and fun for all.
Later in this stage, low-level competitions can be offered involving
structured minor activities and modified sports where basic sports
skills can be acquired and refined in an enjoyable, positive
These act as a good introduction to the simple rules and ethics of sports.
As the young person advances in sport, fundamental motor skills in
the previous stage need to be supplemented by more specific sports
Participation in a wide range of sports is still encouraged. This
will produce athletes who are more trainable for long-term,
sport-specific development (because of good basic skills).
The aim is for young people to gain a variety of sports skills, which
will better equip them to make choices on which sports and positions
In this stage, young people are learning how to train and practice
becomes a more powerful factor in skill development, but fun and
enjoyment remain important. They should be able to:
Fundamental movement skills should be practised and mastered before
sport-specific skills are introduced. Sport providers need to
Competition is introduced when the critical movement skills and
concepts have been developed. However, the emphasis is still on learning
and improving the basics.
Competition helps the practice of technical skills and learning how
to cope with the physical and mental challenges presented during
Inter and intra-school, and inter and intra- club competitions should
act as stepping-stones to more formal competition in the later years of
There may be times when either a single or mixed sex competition is
preferable. When making a decision, social and emotional factors are
likely to be more important considerations than age.
Scores can be kept but there should be no competition rankings and a
focus maintained on enjoyment while building technical and tactical
Many young people will decide to specialise in their favourite sport
and training becomes a significant part of their life with a more
serious focus. The goal is usually competition.
Coaching clinics and talent development programs play a role at this
level by assisting young people to make informed decisions about their
Some junior sport participants will be committed to achieving an elite level of performance in a single activity.
They should have developed their physical, cognitive, social,
emotional and motor skills to a level needed in highly specialised
training in one sport.
Coaches will need to provide:
Some young people will be disappointed they are not selected after
after dedicated training. Be ready to offer them support if necessary.
Practice becomes the focus of training in the specialisation stage
and sport providers need more technical expertise to assist the
development of young people. Sport providers play an important role in:
For young people wishing to compete at elite levels, the focus of
training shifts to the optimisation of performance through intense
Preventing physical and mental burnout (see Physical growth and maturation – junior sport policy and The law and sport – junior sport policy) is an issue in the specialisation stage.
In the early part of this stage, activities should become more
structured with an emphasis on skill development and game appreciation,
and involve both inter-school and inter-club competitions.
As young people advance in physical maturity they will be ready for
more intense competition and for a progression in their sporting
Competitions at inter-club, inter-school, state and national levels
should focus on enjoyment while meeting the needs of young people to
perform to the best of their ability.
Competition should also be planned to meet the needs of the committed young people who wish to perform to a high level.
Junior sport participants prefer to play sport primarily for enjoyment:
This is a desirable progression and may lead to the ultimate goal of
life-long participation. The main aim is to have fun through playing
sport and spending time with friends.
At this stage, some young people may also be encouraged to commit to
being a volunteer and training to be a coach, official or administrator,
so they can continue to contribute to the sport they love.
Young people in the recreational participation phase are looking for satisfaction through:
Sport providers will be able to create appropriate experiences if they understand these needs and focus on providing them.
Practice can be in the form of games aimed at maintaining and improving basic sports skills and technical proficiency.
Some young people in the recreational participation phase look for a
competitive sport experience, while others prefer competitions focusing
on social outcomes and fun.
One sport pathway cannot satisfy the needs of all sports. And the
difference between sports relates to whether specialisation in the sport
happens early or late.
This affects how quickly young people move through the stages. In
addition, the individual timing of development/maturation influences how
soon young people reach the various stages in the pathway.
Therefore, no recommendations about specific ages for each stage have been made in the guidelines.
Each sport has a responsibility to develop its own pathways to meet the needs of the sport and its participants. It should:
Schools and clubs should work together to have consistent pathways for young people in any particular sport (see Forming links – Junior sport policy).
Sport development should be based on the principles and strategies set out in the Junior Sport Guidelines 2003.
Table 1 summarises generalised skill and game progressions to help in drafting a pathway for a sport.
An important role of sporting organisations is to assist all sport
providers (including parents and carers) to move young people through
specially designed pathways according to their talent and interest.
There is satisfaction in a job well done when young people:
Social aspects and events
Encourage involvement in other roles (e.g. coach, official)
This information is part of a series covering the nine guidelines
outlined in the Junior Sport Framework (JSF) as developed by Sport
The information in this booklet has been reproduced with the permission of Sport Australia.
The guidelines cover topics to address the needs of young people in sport and include:
These booklets outline the main points of the guidelines to assist in
the delivery of best practice in junior sport and to encourage young
people to make a life-long commitment to sport.
A complete copy of the JSF is available on the Sport Australia website.
Do not submit enquiries with this form.