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Apr 17, 2013

Aussies ditch team sports but stay fit

Organised sports face mounting pressure to reinvent themselves as more Australians ditch team pursuits in favour of individual fitness activities, a new report says.

Research released by the CSIRO on Monday found the number of people participating in individual sports, such as aerobics, running, walking as well as gym memberships, had risen sharply over the past decade.

However, participation rates for many organised sports have either held constant or declined.

"That sort of pattern is quite common out there and is likely to persist," the report's author Dr Stefan Hajkowicz said.

"People are moving more into the space of individualised sports and that's one of the challenges that organised sports face: to keep participation levels high."

Dr Hajkowicz said the shift was largely linked to the amount of time Australians had available to commit to team sports, even though most were still keen to stay fit and healthy.

"So when we look at a sport, it's not so much just about the sport," he said.

"We've got a much heavier overload of how can this help me achieve a pathway to better health."

Soccer was one team sport that was bucking the trend, Dr Hajkowicz added, with its participation rate on the up, along with extreme activities like skateboarding and kiteboarding.

Federal Sports Minister Kate Lundy said organised sport in Australia faced fierce competition from non-formal and recreational activities and needed to take heed from the research findings.

"It's a great eye-opener ... to the organised sports, the big codes and our second-tier sports right around the country, that they need to address their participation strategy to keep their sports strong," she told reporters in Sydney.

"After all, that is the heart of our Australian sports system."

Senator Lundy encouraged codes to follow their rivals who have already developed more flexible or short-form versions of their games, such as Oz-Tag and the AFL 9s, to lure more participants.

"I think that kind of innovation in sport is really helping keeping people involved in organised sport because you get much more than just fitness," she said.

The 'Future of Australian Sport: Megatrends shaping the sports sector over coming decades' identified six key trends, including the increasing influence of technology and social media in sport and the growing wealth of Asian countries.

The report was commissioned by the Australian Sports Commission.

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