Adolescence is a critical time for developing lifelong healthy behaviours including regular participation in sport and physical activity. Participation in sport and physical activity, however, declines during adolescence and few studies have comprehensively identified why; particularly amongst rural girls. This study identifies a range of independent and interacting factors that influence sport and physical activity participation in rural adolescent girls. Methodology: The socio-ecological model of health was used to conduct four focus group discussions with Grade 7 girls (n = 34). Four secondary schools were randomly selected and checked for remoteness using SEIFA and ARIA+ Indexes. Results: Adolescent girls were positively influenced when sport or physical activities were fun, they involved being with friends, and were supported by families and teachers through role modelling and positive feedback. A range of intrapersonal and organisational factors affected perceived self-competence; particularly the co-educational nature of school physical education classes and peer teasing which supported social comparisons of skill level. Conclusions: In the promotion of sport and physical activity to rural adolescent girls, focus must be directed upon developmentally appropriate activities that are fun, opportunities for single-sex classes, and generating cultural changes that encourage non-competitive, and self-referencing activities.
Physical activity (PA) is important for lifelong health; however, participation is lower in rural compared with metropolitan areas and declines during adolescence, particularly for girls. It is likely that this decline is related to the number of life transitions that occur during adolescence. This qualitative study examined the views of active rural living girls regarding the factors affecting their sport and PA participation, using the socioecological model. Twenty-seven girls aged 16-17 from four schools participated in semi-structured focus group discussions. Content and thematic analysis was conducted from verbatim transcripts using NVivo. The girls enjoyed involvement in community club sport with friends and they reported living in communities where participation in sport was a major form of social interaction. However, the desire to succeed educationally was a critical factor affecting their participation in sport and PA and influenced their movement from structured club sport to more flexible, but socially isolated individual activities. It is recommended that future longitudinal research should track rural living adolescent females as they complete secondary school, in order to better understand the influence of educational priorities upon sport and PA participation and to identify practical strategies for both schools and community organizations to foster continuing participation throughout this crucial period of life transition.