Aim: The current study aims to describe participation and interest in 18 selected popular sports among a large sample of New Zealand adolescents with the goal of identifying opportunities for increasing youth participation in physical activity.
Methods: Multi-stage cluster sampling was used to select 82 secondary schools and classes of Year 10 and 12 students within schools from six geographical regions throughout New Zealand. Students completed self-administered written questionnaires.
Results: The school response rate was 58%, with physical activity data available for 1730 females and 1704 males, including 637 students who self-identified as Maori. The greatest gaps between expressed interest and actual participation were reported for rugby union, rugby league, basketball, soccer and surfing (among both sexes); dance and volleyball (among females); and skateboarding (among males). When diversity of participation was modelled, increased diversity was associated with being male, having an income from part-time work, and having greater diversity of interest in the selected sports.
Conclusion: For several sports there are substantial groups of young people who express interest but do not participate. The challenge for public health is to turn this interest into increased participation in health-promoting physical activity--by providing appropriate opportunities and support for participation.