Adult Sport Participation and Life Transitions: The Significance of Childhood and Inequality

  • David Haycock
  • Andy Smith


The promotion of Sport for All over the life course is one longstanding justification of national and international policy intended to promote sport participation and physically active lifestyles. Of particular interest has been the need to reduce the age-related drop-off in, and drop-out from, sport upon the completion of full-time education, whilst retaining and increasing the small proportion of those who remain sports-active throughout their lives. In the light of concerns about adults’ sport participation, this chapter examines policy aspirations for promoting Sport For All via an analysis of existing data on adult sport participation, the impact of life transitions on engagement in sport over the life course and how the childhood life stage provides the foundation for unequal propensities in sport participation during adulthood. It is concluded that despite the ideological attraction of Sport For All as a goal of public policy, it remains something of an aspiration rather than a reality, especially in the context of widening social inequalities that often precede participation and help shape the degree to which sporting predispositions formed during childhood generate unequal rates and patterns of adult sport participation. The simple promotion of Sport For All cannot reasonably be expected to mediate the impact of such inequalities, and until this is recognized, stubborn differences in present-day sport participation rates are likely to remain intact, and the unequal lives people currently lead (particularly in neo-liberal economies) are likely to become even more unequal in the future.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Haycock
    • 1
  • Andy Smith
    • 2
  1. 1.Edge Hill UniversityOrmskirkUK
  2. 2.Department of Sport and Physical ActivityEdge Hill UniversityOrmskirkUK

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