How to get more youngsters actively involved in sport?

Posted in increase participation in sport, marketing field hockey on January 28th, 2012 by John Coxon


Sport : An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively.


My Credentials :  I have had over the years  a number of clients , whom I have served  through my photography, sports journalism ,PR and marketing services, some of whom are or have been elite professional or amateur world class athletes and players. All have excelled in their chosen disciplines but I have noted that the personal discipline , strengths and qualities they apply  to their sport  both in performing and training, transfer so readily make them successful in virtually anything they turn their hand to.  One such client, former GB international triathlete,  Michelle Dillon, world champion and Olympian, was forced to retire early from international competition though injury and now the same person applies those champion qualities  as a very successful coach running a vibrant professional triathlon coaching business.  Principally when in sports photographer and journalist model, I am most at home amongst athletes and player communities  at all levels in different sports, finding members of grass roots sport communities well rounded, more sociable and out-goingly friendly , more confidence and fun to be around and I genuinely feel that sports clubs play a major part in helping maintain a more stable, disciplined and responsible  society.

Because of the genuine , open dialogue between a media professional like myself and an athlete, I stay in regular contact and have detailed knowledge of how they spend their everyday and their life style. Whilst such elite athletes are competitive , the real competition is not against the stop watch  or other athletes, it is a competition with themselves and within themselves, the drive  to be the best you can be , and that is principally measured ipsotively, i.e against their own bench marks, the PB and training and performance times.  Performance can be influenced by so many factors, including self-inflicted stress and self doubt, the later being the real competition , especially when training of actual event performance is under par. Whilst most athletes have coach mentors , it is the athletes self-governance , self reliance and self-motivation that is key to success.  Such qualities are developed whatever level you participate at.


Many kids do not identify with athletes or players as direct role models. Why?

Kids are not taking up sport more readily pre-Olympics, their interest is actually on the decline and I cannot see the situation improving during or after the Olympics. I am actually not surprised. What are kids doing instead? Why aren’t they using sport personalities as role models and what could be done to turn watchers of sport, largely on TV, wearers of some of the trappings of sports people as fashion leisure ware , at least until shopping becomes an Olympic sport. We need in my view to work harder in selling the benefits in terms of developing and practicing core  values that will increase their life chances , especially in the job market. From research kids are rarely going to take notice of the health benefits.

The nature of the popularity of current role models in  sport.

Curiously , it seems that the sports personalities that make the headlines and are best known are not principally universally adored as role models by virtue of their actual performing in their chosen sport but  more so as celebrities if that sport success gets them sufficient media attention which in itself helps to drive income not directly from the sport but by  a marketable association with it.  Perhaps Beckham is the most celebrated example  and still tops the Sunday  Times wealthiest footballer list netting £40 million in 2010 -2011 mostly from sponsor endorsement and his deal with Adidas is the biggest in history in  terms of the royalties on sports apparel and shoes he gets.  Social media has done wonders for second place  Ronaldo, who £2 million adrift of ,his total wealth very probably greater than David’s  but ,  significantly,his attraction to brands is his incredible 28 million Facebook fan base.

The major influence of TV and advertising on kids values and life choices

Kids are aspirational, have immediate and long terms needs and wants but tend to see fulfilment in the stereotypical markers that have been sold to them by the advertising media. It seems that for many self-esteem does not come from within or from achievements but by buying in items of designer clothing for example that they feel gives them status. Kids remain Influenced principally by their peers and parents and by far the majority chose role models who are TV and “social” celebrities and not in sport.  Active parents tend to nurture active kids and vica versa just as kids of parents who smoke are much more prone to become smokers themselves. There is an interest in the lifestyle of some sports personalities particularly those who have become wealthy through it and who figure much in branding of themselves and endorse either their own designer brands or those of others they are paid heavily to endorse.

In many ways TV has become a main force in influencing the life choices of youngsters. With sport of course they may see the performances either in individual or team sport and the medals  but they also see the  lifestyles of the most successful through own brand or product endorsement. Those celebrities often gain far more from selling their brand than they do from the actual sport they are involved in. In short, kids , like we do, generally see the finished result, a sprinters race can be over within ten seconds, a game of football some 90 minutes. They do not usually see how those performances are achieved and  never see the daily hours of skill, fitness and mental training needed to compete at the highest level and these days with all sports ever more competitive, at top level it has to be a total life style choice and requires the athlete to make it their full time job and be totally focused. They are buying into the product , not the process. They wear the fashion and the labels because  they are so easily achievable and widely on sale  – they can get a quick fix.

Fans of some sports people idolise/ worship stars of sport who have gained international celebrity especially  what they see as in magazines and TV adverts , the glamorous life style and naturally aspire to that themselves. The designer labels, the replica shirts , the sport celebrity “fragrance” may be some consolation and is the closest most will get.

Focus on elite athletes and players

Part of the problem with becoming active in sport as a  life choice is the way it is promoted and presented. By far the biggest push is for elite versions of sport from football through all other sports, it is where government funding is focused , where money can be made and it is where TV broadcasting is aimed. TV advertising and brand endorsement is how athletes and players can  become wealthy  even though the number who are at the top of the earning league are  a very tiny minority of the people who are active in any sport,  but the majority of active participants are grass roots  amateurs and self-funded.

Top sport is evolutionary and relies on natural selection, and it has become a science in itself. Natural talent may be spotted but then it is increasing common  vet through scientific performance testing and matching lab performances and body specs to pre-conceived criteria in terms of boy type and other factors which are believed to pre-determine success and higher achievement. But, in the local sports clubs where I have worked whilst the majority of athletes and players may never make a national squad  the level of commitment is on a par with elite athletes and  the achievement greater because clubbers are often holding down day jobs or studying. Certainly in triathlon, one of my photography specialisms and  favourite sport of mine, elite athletes greatly respect amateur “Age Groupers” for whom it is, and has to be, a  life style choice.

Against that cultural background, kids are quite likely to wear sports shoes and clothing as  a fashion statement and yet, research seems to suggest,  uptake is in decline and a trend that is unlikely to be reversed easily.  Sport does of course get less curriculum time against the push to promote success in “academic” subjects although I think that the ~National Curriculum does make demands on kids where once it was seen as break from work  and the pen and paper stuff.

Personal image concerns rather that health benefits influence physical activity uptake.

Image issues seems to be a more powerful motivator to participation in phsyical activity , for teens as opposed to improving and maintaining health. With teenagers and young women  and to a less extent males, it was seen as important to help control body shape and weight. For the older people, it is seen as staving off the effects of aging and providing a social support network. Challenges to identity such as having to show others an unfit body, confidence and competence in core skills were barriers to participation. In the younger kids , competitive games  were foun to be a turn off and decreased enthusiasm in willing participation where fun and variety characterised physical activities that kids wanted to get involved in.  A safe environment, easy drop off were key factors in parental support for their kids being involved in physical activity. Weight management, social interaction and enjoyment were common reasons for participation in sport and physical activity. Concerns about maintaining a slim body shape motivated participation among  young girls as did appearing  to be seen as overly “masculine .”




  1. Marketing involves looking at the public perception of a product, service or activity and changing it with a range of interventions and advertising  if  so far it is being undersold. We are not selling sport effectively to young adults and by year nine the rot really has set in. Why? Clearly body image is important to youngsters, more than the perceived health benefits.
  2. If we can view sport as a product we don’t need to sell each sport very differently. I am a photographer but I don’t sell photographs, I market the benefits of paying for a professional as opposed to winging it with an amateur or DIY but also the benefits of hiring me to do the work over my competitors.
  3. All sports bring the same benefits but different people perceive different benefits as important to them. Our aim should have the overarching will to get youngsters involved in any sport/ physical activity and stick with it as a life choice.
  4.  To get maximum take up benefits have to match up to individual needs.  An activity that adds to the fun of life and contributes to a person’s self esteem is going to be more attractive.
  5. Sport is unique as a subject (perhaps over most others  and over those whose curriculum tries to address social and moral issues , encourage taking greater responsibility more academically. By physically doing and experiencing working in a team for example to a set of rules  core values are practiced for real.


It is interesting to look at a typical list that someone involved in teaching PE might come up with as motivation  and the benefits to participate actively in sport.  Various kids I have known would have different priorities I am sure. Their question is going to be what’s in it for me?

1. Develop and become proficient at the various sports skills.

2. Develop skills needed to socialize with their peers as well as adults.

3. Develop independence and confidence.

4. Develop a sense of achievement, which helps develop a positive self-image.

5. Develop leadership skills and qualities.

6. Learn how to cooperate and compete.

7. Develop agility, coordination, endurance, flexibility, speed and strength.

8. Develop the ability to make decisions and accept responsibilities.

9. Learn to understand and express emotions, imagination, and appreciation for what the body can do.

10. Develop an interest in continuing sports participation as an adult.

PE teachers of course have a captive audience , sport in compulsory but the area of more importance in the wider scheme of things, is how to increase the number of young people who elect  to get involved outside of school or in extra curricular activities. Peer involvement is a biggy  but one area which I wonder is looked at with more focus is how what you do in your spare time can open doors. I cover BUCS Hockey ( British Universities and Colleges) and it is no accident the major and very generous sponsor , is a  global big hitter. They are in a capital intense industry   and say of their involvement in hockey ( and rowing ) :-

“.In our experience, sportspeople possess many of the skills that reinforce success in the workplace. These skills range from knowing how to perform well under pressure to understanding the value of effort; and from being equipped to deal with set-backs to having the ability to communicate, co-operate and lead.” PCW discriminate positively in recruitment of people who are active in sport in their own time.


The CV and Personal Statement .

A common interview question from a potential employer is “How do you spend your  spare time.” So many job specifications require the same  core skills and generalisations like “ I have always been interested in ……will generate a pregnant pause where you would be expected to give examples where you got off your butt that proved it since they are looking for skills and values that are usable to them and which are basic competencies all employers need.  Active membership of a club and team, possible additional voluntary role duties  like Captain , secretary, coach, websmaster, social media content production will tick all the boxes.

Thereby voluntary active participation in sport is a major benefit to a person in terms of opening doors ,giving an active young adult  an edge in the job market over bedroom sedentary  books & gaming based geeks ,that perhaps isn’t made enough of in regards to being involved in sport. These two posters are samples done for a client to get general levels of participation up across a number of sports up but can be adapted for specific sports you a re trying to attract interest in. Call me 24/7 365 text or phone 07989 300 104 if you think my services can help with your project.



No room for the Good Samaritan at York Minster ?

Posted in Opinions on January 28th, 2012 by John Coxon

The Telegraph carries a report with the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu , saying that if Prime Minister  Cameron allows the legalisation of gay marriage , he is like a “dictator.”  This is bizarre , naïve and simplistic language, from this ex Pat Ugandan doctor of Theology  and the  ensuing “logic” of his case defies belief. What planet is this  Church of England (homophobic) Archbishop of York on ?

Such ecclesiastical clerics are  a sect of aesthete theological scholars with their heads in books , their eyes on their own version of heaven but can’t read, live   on earth but with their heads in the clouds and no real knowledge of the real world and such vindictive announcements serve only to further marginalise and stigmatise not hetro-sexual couples and it is an  outrageous contempt.  The men at the top of the Church of England hierarchy do not live completely simple and humble lives but wear gaudy robes and live like  aristocracy  or royalty in stately homes. From I imagine humble origins in Uganda, this man now lives in a palace , Bishopthorpe Palace, which is an obscenity in itself.

He certainly is no Ghandi. If people of his self-righteous bigoted ilk people heaven , I will pass on that one. The job is vocational, pastoral , ones “called” to do  “God’s work” but not having the credentials to  make judgements like Him or for Him.  It is evident that  some hierarchical  religious  relics  in frocks are so selective in their scripture reading and how they translate passages of their own scriptures subjectively for which they do not have any divine right. Well far be it for me to preach to the man but , “You are going to reap just what you sow” and this argument certainly fell on stoney ground Mr Sentamu.


Corinthians I hear says things about the pre-eminent virtue of Charity and the nature of love (chapters  I commonly hear when I am photographing  weddings ) and that must be Absolute Love which must, by definition, transcend all things including gender and sexuality.  “Angels don’t make love, they are love” . (Any time I am asked, I’d be delighted to photograph a gay marriage and of course the law should empower people to make a public commitment to be united as one , to forsake all others , if  they have reached a point where that is their wish.

From the dictates in the ancient Christian dogma, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” ( After Love thy God )is stated to be the most important of all the Commandments because if you honour that edict all others follow. Who gave these pontificating mortals  the right to add to “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” the self-fulfilling tag “unless they happen to be  gay?”


Christ I read was in direct conflict with the established church of the day as anyone reasonable , in my view, would be in conflict with the established Anglican church and its awful New Jerusalem.  To hijack the slogan of the occupy Movement “What would Jesus say ?”  “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do” springs to mind.”

Translate »