Listening to the stories of young grassroots participants across geography, sport, and levels of deprivation in Wales has highlighted several potential barriers which can inhibit progression to participation in recognised sporting pathways. Although the research presented above organises potential barriers into five broad themes, it is important to recognise that the above is not an exhaustive list of all and the only barriers which can be faced by young people. Instead, what should be emphasised is:
- The importance of listening to the stories told by young people – we often ‘think’ that we understand the challenges young people face, however, it is only when they are articulated and explained by those with a lived experience that we truly begin to appreciate the complexity and impact those challenges have on the lives of those experiencing them. Therefore, to understand the steps necessary to enhance recognised sporting pathways, and to achieve an inclusive sporting system, the listening and airing of the voices of those with lived experience is key.
- Barriers to progression into a recognised sporting pathway are varied – barriers presented above range from logistical, to experiential, to perceptive, to the psychological tools available. Consequently, it is important to go beyond the seemingly simple and obvious challenges which we ‘think’ young people encounter and begin to appreciate more broadly the possible reasons which could inhibit their participation and progression.
- Barriers to progression into a recognised sporting pathway are complex – although we understand some of the barriers presented above, their origin and how they impact the participant is often complex. For example, knowing where a specific perception of the pathway originated, and how that impacts the behaviours and attitudes of young people is not simple nor linear. Furthermore, understanding how the life of an athlete in a particular sport interacts with their life as a participant of another sport, as a student, as friend, as a child, and as a sibling is complicated and unique. Therefore, an appreciation of fact that challenges to progression in sport are multifaceted and interact with each other in complex ways is a necessary first step in understanding how to appropriately intervene.
With this in mind, there is a list of considerations that national governing bodies, those operating within sporting pathways, and other decision-makers should bear in mind, and explore further, when reflecting on their own recognised sporting pathways.