Experiences surrounding sports participation for 16-18-year old female students : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Sport participation has been found to decrease with age particularly in the later teenage years. According to a survey conducted by Sport New Zealand (2019), participation in sports in New Zealand was reported to decrease between the ages 15 and 17, and young females were found to participate in sports 1.5 hours less per week than males of the same age group. The aim of this research was to explore the barriers and motivations for participation in sport of 16-18-year-old females in New Zealand. By identifying what young women enjoy and what holds them back in their sports participation, changes should be made to the sports environment in order to increase and retain the participation of young women in sports. Semi-structured interviews took place over email with 16, 16-18-year-old female high school students who participate in sport for school and clubs. Participants were recruited from a secondary school in Auckland, North Shore. The interviews were analysed using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) six step thematic analysis guide. The identified themes were divided into barriers to participation and motivators for participation. The overarching barrier themes were: 1. too much pressure in sport 2. time restraints due to sports participation 3. poor health due to overtraining 4. financial strain and 5. gender inequality in support and recognition. The overarching motivating themes were: 1. sport is fun, 2. enjoy the improvement of skills and competence and competing, 3. friendships and socialising 4. sports related health benefits 5. support, and 6. professional sport. The findings found differing and welcome more positive perspectives in regard to health, body image, and weight and sports role than previous research. Students did face major difficulties in balancing their academic commitments with their sports and socialising. Another key factor found by this study was the important role parents play in their child's sport plus also identified coaching techniques as being highly influential on participants enjoyment of their sport. A lack of peer support for female sports was also identified as a barrier for females as male sports are taken more seriously and regarded more highly. An area that I recommend more research should be done on is the culture surrounding individual sports. This study is one of few who have conducted qualitative research into the views of young women in sports. The implications of this research and possible future directions are discussed as well as my recommendations.