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Young people and Sport

Nearly all young people in Northern Ireland participate in sport or physical activities.

In 1994 the Sports Council published results from one of the most comprehensive studies undertaken into young people's involvement in sport world-wide. The results are available in book form from the publishers Routledge. The study found:

  • 8 out of 10 young people aged 8 - 18 years of age have a 'top sport' which is important to them and which they choose to do in their own time
  • Only 16% of young people, and mainly those in the early years of their first school did not have a 'top sport' or a sport which they felt was important apart from having to do it as part of the school curriculum
  • 7 out of 10 young people spend an average of four hours a week on their top sport away from their school
  • 7 out of 10 young people would like to spend more time on their sports
  • 3 out of 10 young people feel they have the potential to reach the elite level in their 'top sport'

Young people's decisions to participate in sport

  • Young people play sport for a variety of reasons. Above all it is for enjoyment (78%) , feeling good (67%), keeping fit (65%) and making friends and the excitement of sport (63%)
  • Winning was rated as less important (33%)
  • Boys play more sport than girls and in typically masculine activities such as soccer and Gaelic football
  • Boys show preferences for team activities. 7 out of 10 boys identified a team activity as their top sport while 6 out of 10 girls identified an individual activity
  • 8 out of 10 young people say that time spent on sport is very worthwhile

Boys and girls sport in schools

  • Boys are allocated more curriculum physical activity than girls
  • More curriculum physical activity time is given in Protestant schools than Catholic schools
  • 3 out of 10 young people spend at least an hour per week on their favourite sport in school
  • Only 1 out of 10 boys and 2 out of 10 girls spend no time on their favourite sport away from school
  • The amount of time young people are involved in curriculum physical education has remained constant between 1991 and 1999. The amount of time devoted declines as children move from year 8 to year 12.

The top five 'top sports' played by boys and girls aged up to eleven are:

Boys Girls
Soccer Swimming
Swimming Rounders
Cycling Cycling
Gaelic football Netball
Basketball Soccer

The top five 'top sports' played by young people aged up to 18 are:

Boys Girls
Soccer Swimming
Swimming Netball
Basketball Badminton
Gaelic football Hockey
Badminton Athletics

Young people sport and clubs

  • 36% of young people play their 'top sport' in clubs
  • only 18% of young people play their 'top sport' in sport only clubs
  • 4 out of 10 boys play their 'top sport' competitively compared with around 2 out of 10 girls
  • 3 out of 10 young people are supervised by a coach



Contact: Shaun Ogle

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