Ballarat betters rivals Bendigo and Geelong in sports participation

WHEN it comes to organised sport, Ballarat beats Bendigo and Geelong for participation rates. And this city spends less time sitting than neighbouring rivals.

Looking at the bigger picture, Federation University of Australia Associate Professor in health Rochelle Eime says there was still a lot more we can do strategically to improve.

Ballarat youngsters aged four to nine had lower participation rates compared Bendigo, Geelong and the Victorian average, according to Ms Eime. Female participation rates for girls aged four to 15, were also lower in organised sport. 

“We want to try and help increase participation in sport by analysing participation data,” Ms Eime said.

“Data has traditionally been held in ‘silos’ for different sports. Individual sporting bodies may have collected information but were not able to analyse or share that beyond their own walls.

“...We want to generate knowledge and transfer knowledge to the sector for a more complete picture.”

Sport and Recreation Spatial focused on six major sports: Australian rules football, basketball, cricket, hockey, netball and tennis.

Ms Eime led a team of Fed Uni and Victoria University researchers to compile the national database on exercise, recreation and sport participation with demographic and health statistics. The mapping, funded by Vic Health, is designed to help local policy makers navigate their way through sporting fields.

Ms Eime said this could be an aid for government initiatives, like the City of Ballarat’s Active Women and Girls in Sport Strategy, to better understand participation in certain demographics.

In overall study, there was a high correlation between participation rates for age groups with facilities available, of which Ballarat was actually behind Bendigo and Geelong, but Ms Eime said there were still other individual and community factors to take into account. This included: family and peers; sports offered; and, community effects like media.

On a suburb basis, Buninyong has the highest rate of participation in the six major sports. Delacombe and Wendouree-Miners Rest consistently had low participation rates across age groups while other suburbs varied.

The study also found Ballarat had “good support for an active community” with higher rates of volunteering than Bendigo and Geelong and higher than state average of sports coaches.