Sport participation associations with child friend selection and physical activity while at summer care programs


Child physical activity (PA) declines during summer reducing PA-related health benefits. Summer care programs (e.g., Boys & Girls Clubs) can promote active play while providing opportunities for friendships. Sport participation is a positive influence on PA and social development. This article investigates the role of sport participation in PA attainment, perceived skill competency, and social connection at a summer care program. Children self-reported PA, sport participation, and the names of up to five peers whom they played with most at the program at the start (T1; n=100; M age=9.94 years; SD=1.34; 47% male) and end (T2; n=77; M age=9.83 years; SD=1.46; 51% male) of summer. Network autocorrelation models were used to determine if child sport participation was significantly associated with those they played with at the program. Children who reported sport participation reported significantly more PA than those who did not at T1, but not T2. Child sport participation was significantly related to that of the peers they said they spent time with while at the program for T1 (β=0.07, p<0.01), but not T2 (β=0.06, p=0.10). Additionally, PA (β=0.08, p<0.01; β=0.07, p=0.01) and skill competency (β=0.11, p=0.02; β=0.15, p<0.01) were significantly associated with sport participation at both time points. While sports participation was a key factor in child friendships at the start of summer, the program allowed children, regardless of sport participation, to become friends outside of sports. These results suggest summer care programs promote PA through play and provide opportunities for children to facilitate friendships regardless of sport participation.

Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport Science