Parents, girls’ and Australian football: a constructivist grounded theory for attracting and retaining participation

Samuel Elliott, Nadia Bevan, Catherine Litchfield

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Increasing girls’ participation in organised sport in Australia represents an elusive challenge for most sporting codes. Girls encounter a range of barriers and obstacles that serve to discourage initial and ongoing participation in youth sport. One setting that has flourished is Australian football, coinciding with the establishment of a professional competition known as Australian Football League Women (AFLW) in 2017. This is somewhat ironic given that Australian football is widely perceived to be a masculinised sporting domain characterised by violence and injury. Despite this, national participation data suggests that Australian football is one of the most popular preferences among contemporary girls and young women at a time when attracting and retaining girls in sport is inherently difficult. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to generate a grounded theory surrounding how Australian football attracts and retains girls’ participation. A constructivist grounded theory (GT) methodology was used involving eight focus groups with 45 participants (girls and parents) involved in Australian football. Data were analysed through a process of initial and focused coding, and theoretical integration, leading to the development of a substantive grounded theory that comprised three categories including (a) sources of attraction, (b) facilitators for participation, and (c) reinforcers for retention. The concepts underpinning the substantive grounded theory and the implications for applied practice are discussed throughout.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)392-413
    Number of pages22
    JournalQualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2019


    • girls
    • involvement
    • youth sport
    • focus groups
    • Australian football
    • Girls


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