The aim of this research was to establish whether the Active Sports initiative ( Sport England, 1999a) was an effective vehicle to facilitate progression in young children’s involvement in sport from grass roots towards elite performance. The Durham Sport Partnership in the North East of England was used as a case study to examine this.
As part of a survey design, varied methodologies including registration forms, questionnaires and interviews were employed to generate qualitative and quantitative data to identify the numbers and profiles of the children and coaches engaged in Active Sports, as well as to compare their interpretation of the quality of their experiences during the Active Sports initiative in providing the first step to sporting excellence.
The extent to which the scheme achieved the set equity targets and the influence of the initiative on the sporting involvement of the children were examined, along with the coaches’ interpretation of the impact of the scheme on the development of sporting talent.
Analysis of the data revealed that participants and coaches found involvement in Active Sport a fulfilling and enjoyable experience that had positive impact on continued sports involvement and professional development respectively. However, the design of the activities and their relationship with any progression to elite sport was found to be questionable, as was the appropriateness of the inclusion of equity targets into an initiative designed to positively impact on elite sport. A significant contributory factor to this was the lack of knowledge the stakeholders had of the initiative, particularly the coaches.
The organisation and fundamental structure of the Active Sport initiative in terms of the relationship between what sports the sporting infrastructure is able and willing to offer and what sports young people want to be involved in is questioned, as is the lack of integration of robust talent identification systems in the initiative.
The conclusion is therefore drawn that the Active Sports initiative was not an effective vehicle to facilitate the progression in young children’s involvement in sport from grass roots towards elite performance.
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Reference : Cook, G.V. (2010) 'Active Sports' The First Step to Sporting Excellence? Doctoral thesis, Durham University. Available at : http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/254/
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