The Role of Competition in Leisure-Time Physical Activity Among Middle School Youth: Implications for Park and Recreation Professionals


  • Richard W. Christiana Appalachian State University
  • Stephanie T. West Appalachian State University
  • Marsha Davis University of Georgia



recreation, competition, leisure-time physical activity, theory of planned behavior, unstructured activity, gender


A better understanding of the types and contexts of activities that young adolescents participate in during their leisure time is needed in order to foster the early development of positive leisure behaviors and recreation choices that can influence maintenance of leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) throughout life. The purpose of this study was to examine differences in intention to participate and current participation in competitive and noncompetitive forms of LTPA among young adolescents by gender and socioeconomic status. The results are intended to inform community recreation professionals as they often have responsibility for making programmatic decisions that directly influence LTPA. Intention and current participation in competitive and noncompetitive LTPA was assessed in a rural sample of 838 young adolescents aged 10–14 years through a self-administered questionnaire.  Among all participants, intention to participate in noncompetitive LTPA and competitive LTPA were found to be significant predictors of current participation in each respective form of LTPA. Boys participated in both forms of LTPA more often than girls; however, no statistically significant difference was found among boys between either their intention to participate in noncompetitive and competitive LTPA or current participation in noncompetitive and competitive LTPA. Among girls, intention to participate in noncompetitive LTPA was significantly greater than intention to participate in competitive LTPA and current participation in noncompetitive LTPA was significantly greater than current participation in competitive LTPA. Among low-income youth, no statistically significant difference was found between noncompetitive and competitive LTPA in either intention or current participation. The study results point to the ongoing gender disparity that exists in LTPA participation and provide further context to competitive and noncompetitive recreation choices for how leisure time is spent. The results indicate that community recreation agencies should be sure their recreation programs include noncompetitive program choices designed specifically to meet girls’ interests, but to also consider the value of offering a diverse range of noncompetitive and competitive programming for all youth.Subscribe to JPRA

Author Biographies

Richard W. Christiana, Appalachian State University

Assistant Professor, Health & Exercise Science

Stephanie T. West, Appalachian State University

Professor, Recreation Management & Physical Education

Marsha Davis, University of Georgia

Associate Dean & Professor, Health Promotion & Behavior





Regular Papers