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

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28 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
Early online date13 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Flinders University under a AUD$10,000 Faculty Establishment Grant [number 01-205-07899-0995] We would like to acknowledge the sporting clubs and wider organisations for supporting the project by means of granting permissions to enable recruitment. We would also like to thank the four critical friends from across the world who generously provided time to review the paper prior to submission to the journal.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


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


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