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2. Methodology


Given the specific nature of the research question(s), and the desire to delve into a deeper understanding of the barriers which inhibit the transitions from grassroots to pathway participation, a qualitative approach was favoured. Coupled with focus groups, creative methods were used to facilitate conversations. Firstly, athletes current journeys through the sport were mapped to create a collective picture of a typical journey, including the types of support required. 

Using this is a platform, the focus groups were then steered by a semi-structured interview guide to understand the types of barriers that participants currently and were likely to encounter as they moved through the pathway that would inhibit their progression. 

Finally, participants were invited to share their knowledge and understanding of the sport pathway in their geographical area, before being shown a visual representation of that pathway to search for discrepancies and gaps in their knowledge. Focus groups ended with participants highlighting the barriers and opportunities within the actual pathways, as they understood them. 

Focus groups contained between four and eight participants. Each focus group was focused on the participation and barriers particular to a single sport, and exclusively contained participants of that sport. Focus group discussions typically lasted between 40 and 60 minutes, based on the available lesson time. 


The sampling method employed for this project began firstly with the 2022 School Sport Survey. Given that the study was trying to understand barriers that hindered progression from grassroots sport into a recognised sporting pathway, the sampling method was required to search for and recruit both extracurricular and community club participants.

Using the 2022 School Sport Survey results, sports were firstly deselected from consideration if they did not contain at least five schools with at least 15 grassroots participants (either extracurricular or community club). Next, sports were deselected from consideration if they did not have an adequate spread of schools meeting the above criteria across regional sport partnership areas (in at least three regions). Sports were then deselected from consideration if schools meeting the above criteria did not offer a sufficient spread of deprivation and language spoken. Lastly, sports were selected from the remaining pool to ensure a diversity of sport and pathway, and to ensure findings would be ‘translatable’.

A total of six sports were chosen. One sport was selected from each of the following broad sport categories, ensuring diversity of pathway and experience: 

  • Adventurous Activities
  • Combat Sports
  • Fitness Activities
  • Games and Sports
  • Team Sports
  • Racket Sports

Following the selection of sports, schools were then recruited, ensuring a diversity and spread of geography, deprivation, and language spoken. Schools were prioritised for recruitment if there was more than two sports within that school with sufficient grassroots participation. 

In total, over 125 male and female grassroots participants, across eight schols, five regions, three Free School Meal quartiles [FSM][1], and six sports were chosen and accepted to take part in the research.

Table 1. Number of schools and focus groups by regional sport partnership, free school meal quartile, language spoken, and sport.

 North WalesMid WalesSouth West WalesCentral SouthGwent
No. Schools12221
Free School Meal 1Free School Meal 2Free School Meal 4
English Medium SchoolWelsh Medium School
No. Focus GroupsTeam SportsFitness ActivitiesGames and SportsRacket SportsCombat SportsAdventurous Activities

Consent / Ethics

Before embarking on the research, the research team submitted a pre-DPA (data protection impact assessment form) to Sport Wales’ Information Security Lead. The pre-DPIA was subsequently reviewed and approved by the Information Security Lead, and work on the project commenced. 

The research team sought and obtained school consent before any focus group began. The interviewer also offered interviewees the opportunity to discontinue their participation in the research at any point, and further, made it clear that focus groups would be recorded and used for the purpose of the research. 

Data, including interview recordings and transcripts, were exclusively viewed, and used by the research team, and were stored on password protected computers. The recordings and transcripts were not and will not be shared with anyone else within or outside of Sport Wales, and the quotes in the following report have been anonymised to protect the identity of the contributor. 

[1]Free School Meal Quartiles [FSM] refer to the number of pupils within a school eligible for Free School Meals. FSM1 refers to schools with comparatively fewer pupils eligible for Free School Meals (i.e., least deprived) while FSM4 refers to schools with a comparatively greater number of pupils eligible for Free Schools Meals (i.e., most deprived).