An Examination of Hierarchical Leisure Constraint Effects on Sport Participation and Sport Preference from Adolescence into Early Adulthood


  • Crystal Fields Georgia Southern University
  • Gregory Rich Georgia Southern University
  • Jody Langdon Georgia Southern University


sport participation, adolescence, hierarchical leisure constraints, theory of planned behavior, mixed methods


The aim of this study was to understand how hierarchical leisure constraints prohibited sport participation and influenced sport preferences during individuals’ adolescent years, and how these constraint effects may change during their early twenties. A sequential explanatory mixed methods design was employed to (1) identify general changes in constraint effects on participation (i.e., quantitative) and then (2) better understand how sport preferences may be impacted by these constraint effects on participation (i.e., qualitative). A sample (n=117) of female (n=36) and male (n=81) Georgia residents between the ages of 20-25 representing various ethnicities, backgrounds, and income levels participated in the study. Twelve of the participants were interviewed following their completion of the online questionnaire. Online questionnaire data capturing past and present sport participation constraints were analyzed using two-tailed dependent sample t-tests, while the twelve semi-structured interviews were analyzed through a reflective thematic analysis. Findings from analyses of perceived leisure constraints suggests that interpersonal and structural constraints are likely to become slightly more difficult to negotiate as individuals transition from adolescence into young adulthood and that their sport participation choices and overall sport preferences are unlikely to change significantly. In situations where sport preference and participation changes occur, individuals’ changes often reflect their ability to relate to their new sport or sports through prior skills or knowledge that could be carried over from their adolescent sport participation. Another key driver for participating in new sports as a young adult involves influences from new or existing social groups (e.g., friends, family).

Author Biographies

Crystal Fields, Georgia Southern University

Ms. Crystal Fields is a recent graduate of Georgia Southern University, earning her Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology (BSK) in Exercise Science in 2022. 

Gregory Rich, Georgia Southern University

Dr. Gregg Rich is an Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Program Coordinator of Sport Management at Georgia Southern University

Jody Langdon, Georgia Southern University

Dr. Jody Langdon is a Professor of Exercise Science and Coaching at Georgia Southern University. 


Azjen, I. (1991). The Theory of Planned Behavior. Organizational and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 179-211. Https://

Alexandris, K., Barkoukis, V., & Tsormpatzoudis, C. (2007). Does the Theory of Planned Behavior elements mediate the relationship between perceived constraints and intention to participate in physical activities? A study among older individuals. European Review of Aging and Physical Activity, 4, 39–48. Https://

Anderson, P. L., & Bakken, A. (2019). Social class differences in youths' participation in organized sports: What are the mechanisms? International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 54(8), 921-937. Https://

Armstrong, S., Wong, C. A., Perrin, E., Page, S., Sibley, L., & Skinner, A. (2018). Association of physical activity with income, race/ethnicity, and sex among adolescents and young adults in the United States: findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2007-2016. JAMA Pediatrics, 172(8), 732–740. Https:// 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.1273.

Bae, J., Won, D., Lee, C., & Pack, S. M. (2020). Adolescent participation in new sports: Extended Theory of Planned Behavior. Journal of Physical Education and Sport, 20(3), 2246-2252. Https://

Braun, V., Clarke, V., & Weate, P. (2016). Using thematic analysis in sport and exercise research. In B. Smith & A. C. Sparkes (Eds.), Routledge handbook of qualitative research in sport and exercise (pp. 191–205).

Brown, B. J., Jenson, J. F., Hodgson, J. L., Schoemann, A. M., & Rappleyea, D. L. (2020). Beyond the lines: Exploring the impact of adverse childhood experiences on NCAA student-athlete health [Special issue]. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, Winter 2020, 8–38.

Crawford, D. W., & Godbey, G. (1987). Reconceptualizing barriers to family leisure. Leisure Sciences, 9, 119-127. Https://

Crawford, D., Jackson, E., & Godbey, G. (1991). A hierarchical model of leisure constraints. Leisure Sciences, 13, 309-320. Https://

Davis-Kean, P. E. (2005). The influence of parent education and family income on child achievement: The indirect role of parental expectations and the home environment. Journal of Family Psychology, 19(2), 294-305. Https://

DeMelo, J. (2022, September 3). Why is pickleball so popular? Everyone and their mother seems to be playing. What’s the draw—and is it really a workout? New York Times. Https://

Drakou, A., Tzetzis, G., & Mamantzi, K. (2008). Leisure constraints experienced by university students in Greece. The Sport Journal, 11(1).

Eime, R. M., Harvey, T., Charity, M. J., Casey, M. M., Westerbeek, H., & Payne, W. R. (2016). Age profiles of sport participants. BMC Sport Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation, 8(1), 6. Https://

Fishbein, M., & Azjen, I. (1975). Belief, attitude, intention and behavior: An introduction to theory and research. Addison-Wesley.

Glaser, B. G. & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Routledge.

Godbey, G., Crawford, D. W., & Shen, X. S. (2010). Assessing Hierarchical Leisure Constraints Theory after two decades. Journal of Leisure Research, 42(1), 111–134. Https://10.17123/atad.vol26iss179557.

Halforty, G. A., & Radder, L. (2015). Constraints of participation in organised sport: Case of senior undergraduate students at a new generation university. South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education and Recreation, 37(3), 97–111.

Haycock, D., & Smith, A. (2012). A family affair? Exploring the influence of childhood sport socialisation on young adults’ leisure-sport careers in north-west England. Leisure Studies, 33(3), 285–304. Https://

Hubbard, J., & Mannell, R. C. (2001). Testing competing models of the leisure constraint negotiation process in a corporate employee recreation setting. Leisure Sciences, 23(3), 145–163. Https://

Jackson, E. L., Crawford, D. W., & Godbey, G. (1993). Negotiation of leisure constraints. Leisure Sciences, 15(1), 1-11. Https://

King, B. (2020, January 13). Fueling interest on their terms: Millennial and Generation Z sports fans are creating their own game-day experiences and showing loyalty to teams and leagues that support and simplify that process. Sport Business Journal.

Kremer-Sadlik, T., & Kim, J. L. (2007). Lessons from sports: children's socialization to values through family interaction during sports activities. Discourse & Society, 18(1), 35–52. Https://

Madden, T. J., Ellen, P. S., & Ajzen, I. (1992). A comparison of the Theory of Planned Behavior and the Theory of Reasoned Action. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 18(1), 3-9. Tttps://

Mullen, S. (2022, February 19). American’s fastest-growing sport is a cross of tennis, pingpong, and badminton. NPR. Https://

Noel-London, K., Ortiz, K., & BeLue, R. (2021). Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) & youth sports participation: Does a gradient exist? Child Abuse & Neglect, 113, 104924. Https://

Perks, T. (2020). Trajectories of sport participation among children and adolescents across different socio-economic categories: Multilevel findings from the national longitudinal survey of children and youth. Sociology of Sport Journal, 37, 264–268. Https://

Scheerder, J., Vanreusel, B., Taks, M., & Renson, R. (2005). Social stratification patterns in adolescents' active sports participation behaviour: a time trend analysis 1969–1999. European Physical Education Review, 11(1), 5–27. Https://

Somerset, S., & Hoare, D. J. (2018). Barriers to voluntary participation in sport for children: a systematic review. BMC Pediatrics, 18(47), 1–19. Https://

Wendling, E., Flaherty, M., Sagas, M., & Kaplanidou, K. (2018). Youth athletes' sustained involvement in elite sport: An exploratory examination of elements affecting their athletic participation. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 13(5), 658–673. Https://

Wheeler, S., Green, K., & Thurston, M. (2019). Social class and the emergent organised sporting habits of primary-aged children. European Physical Education Review, 25(1), 89-108. Https://

Wilson, T. C. (2002). The paradox of social class and sports involvement. International Review for The Sociology of Sport, 37(1), 5-16. Https://

World Health Organization [WHO]. (2009). Global health risks: Mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risks. WHO Press.

World Population Review. (2023). Georgia Population 2023. Https://

Xia, M., Hu, P., & Zhou, Y. (2020). How parental socioeconomic status contribute to children's sports participation in China: A cross‐sectional study. Journal of Community Psychology, 48, 2625-2643. Https://