Refusal of supervision, need for self-assertion, "more attractive" hobbies... When adolescents leave the sport

Refusal of supervision, need for self-assertion, “more attractive” hobbies… When adolescents leave the sport

One month after the start of the school year, the sports federations are delighted with the good figures for the month of September. Among the eight largest federations – football, tennis, judo, athletics, handball, rugby, basketball, swimming – all have seen their number of licensees increase at the start of the 2022 academic year compared to the previous year and sometimes even exceed their figures from before covid. However, this good news hides a much less pleasant constant: the drop in the number of practitioners among adolescents.

So how can such a decline in practice be explained at this crucial age? First, in adolescence, “there is a desire to assert itself, a need for a culture of peers that manifests itself and, consequently, a distancing from adult supervision, which is already very strong at home”, explains Pascale Garnier, a sociologist specializing in infancy and childhood, and a professor at the Sorbonne Paris Nord University. “The very young practice is important but after 10 years the number of licensees is reduced”, confirms Laurent Ciubini, general director of the French Swimming Federation (FFN).

The lack of physical practice of the French, and in particular among children and adolescents, is increasingly worrying doctors and specialists while the phenomenon has been observed in the literature for about thirty years. According to the latest figures published by ONAPS (National Observatory of Physical Activity and Sedentary Lifestyle), 37% of children aged 6 to 10 years do not reach the recommendations of 60 minutes of physical activity per day. A figure that rises to 73% for the age category of 11 to 17 years.

This figure takes into account, of course, the practice within sports federations but also the unsupervised practice that young people carry out spontaneously, among them, in urban and rural areas, such as skateparks and playgrounds.

This need for self-assertion is also expressed in the choice of discipline, as explained later by Paschal Garnier: “YesOften, the first physical activities that children practice are oriented according to the tastes of the parents. Also, always on the parents’ side, as soon as their child arrives at university, “He isschool games increase a lot,” she still details.

“Studies prevail and there is some pressure from parents regarding the results before and after high school.”

Pascale Garnier, sociologist

on franceinfo: sport

Added to this is also the question of other hobbies of young people, such as going out with friends or playing video games, which, according to the sociologist, “to become at this age more attractive than sports”.

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At the same time, these age groups face a greater search for performance, desired by clubs and sports associations. “Clubs tend to focus their ambition on competition, thus favoring the best. There is thus a greater selectivity of the federations as young people get older, which is a demotivating factor for supervised practices”, the sociologist continues Paschal Garnier.

Especially since the practice of leisure is also there. unevenly developed she points. An observation of which Laurent Ciubini, director general of the FFN, is well aware: “Swimming is one of the fundamental sports. So we have a lot of very young graduates to learn the basics, but once they have mastered them, the coaches will quickly ramp up the intensity heading into competition. Swimming it is a demanding practice that requires many repetitions and can quickly become exhausting for children, which may explain their abandonment.

This observation is certainly true for both boys and girls, but it is more pronounced for the latter. In adolescence, the rate of practice among boys is much higher than among girls. They left sports activities in clubs, in 5th or 4th grade, a little earlier than the boys”, confirms Catherine Louveau, sports sociologist and academic, specialist in girl-boy inequalities. ONAPS has also investigated the matter and its study corroborates these observations. Among young people aged 6 to 17, only 50.7% of boys and 33.3% of girls meet the recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity per day.

“As children, many of them still sign up for sports such as dance, gymnastics, that is, indoor and aesthetic practices, while the boys will go more naturally to soccer, to judo.”

Catherine Louveau, sports sociologist

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Practices from which they want to free themselves in adolescence. But unlike the children, this time they will not defer to an unsupervised sporting activity, but rather “more towards indoor activities, like reading or shopping. Girls are more inside, boys more outside”summarizes.

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As with their male counterparts, adolescence is a turning point in the practice of clubs, where the demands of competition are increasingly present. “Being an athlete for a girl, that is, practicing athletics, handball, basketball for example, a fortiori in competition, raises questions for many of them regarding the construction of femininity. For many there is the idea that a girl who is too sporty would not be feminine enough, while at this age adolescents question their bodies a lot, seduction…”, analyzes the sociologist Catherine Louveau.

Faced with this phenomenon, sports federations struggle to keep their players young, with the age group of 12-14 years being the key age for the drop in the number of licensees, and this up to 18-19 years. So, in an attempt to reverse the trend, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) investigated the issue to understand the reasons and try to find solutions. “Our figures are not bad, but they are not excellent either. We have as many difficulties as the rest of the federations to attract and retain young people from 14 to 19 years old”, explains Olivier Lievremont, national technical director in charge of professional and amateur teams.

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To invert the curves, the FFR has thus put the package to guarantee a quality practice” in all clubs. The labeling, the support of the technical advisers of each territory and the follow-up booklet for the young player, are solutions that the Federation has implemented in rugby schools (6-14 years).

Youth commissions (ages 14 to 19) have also been created to retain youth until the end of secondary school. “If we are already seeing the first effects, we still have to improve on the girls, because we attract a lot but we also lose a lot”, note the DTN. For the sociologist Pascale Garnier, the work of the federations is certainly fundamental but must be added to other measures. “The federations must develop leisure practices, with the self-organization of young people, to engage children”.

“We also need the support of the State, which should promote the EPS and the UNSS more. Economic support for the practice as well as the replacement of doctors are also important elements to promote the practice”.

Pascale Garnier, sociologist

on franceinfo: sport

Lhe march is still long, but the federations have now tackled this social problem head-on with a common goal: to reconcile adolescents with the practice of sport.


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