Generation Z are the next generation after millennials, and are the digital natives that have grown up alongside developing technologies. And as such this generation is defined by their relationship with technology, however, this certainly over simplifies the youth of today. Besides helping their parents and grandparents on their technological minefields, Gen Z have a different relationship with sport, exercise and fitness when compared to previous generations. This post will look at Gen Z’s relationship to sport, and question whether they are still interested in it.
Technology is making many aspects of life easier, and generation Z are used to having instant gratification through this medium. Whether it is gaming or social media, blogging or vlogging, tech is offering more reasons to stay in the home rather than venturing into the outside world. Gaming offers the option of escaping the real world through technology as opposed to escaping through play or adventure – potentially reducing participation in physical activity.
“Contrary to this issue, technology is playing a bigger part in sport than ever before. It is being integrated into professional sports more and more.” – Digital Pigeon The introduction of goal line technology in football is the most recent and relevant example. Technology is proving to better our experiences of sport. Importantly, Gen Z are able to fully embrace this and experience sport in ways that preceding generations could not. Take the adoption of tech by skiers as an example.
The way we socialise has changed dramatically due to technology. Nowadays communication is done online. This also means that leaving the house isn’t a necessary requirement when socialising with friends. Gen Z can be found sat in their rooms playing video games, while speaking on a headset, and video calling other groups of friends. This is modernised socialising and to older generations this would be mind boggling. Before recently, socialising with friends would also require getting out of your house and physically interacting. This simply isn’t the case today. Whereas millennials lived out their childhood, riding bikes, going swimming, kicking a football and walking to friends’ houses, Generation Z can get many of their needs without leaving their bedroom.
Alternatively, social team sports are still very popular. Football is a team sport that really boosts the feeling of being part of a team and working together. Team sports are highly social and football is no different, Additionally, football is the most popular sport among the 16-24 age range. Generation Z are still playing sport in pleasing amounts, and for this age range, the social elements are highly important. They may be able to socialise at home using technology, but sport is also proving to develop essential social skills.
Influencers and role models
Influencers are today’s role models. They are paid to influence others by wearing certain products, consuming specific food & drink and acting in certain ways. In fact, 75% of those ages 6-17 want to become YouTubers and vloggers. This aspiration to be someone who appears to sit at home and make videos about topics that they feel like discussing certainly doesn’t give young people the get up and go that is required for many occupations. It also certainly doesn’t give anyone the incentive to get out and be active.
Yet, what new technologies do provide is the ability for young people to interact far more closely with their idols. The ability to follow sporting heroes such as 23-time gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps and 20-time grand slam winning tennis player Roger Federer, is likely to influence and encourage engagement in swimming and tennis. Another benefit to bear in mind is celebrities such as Dwayne Johnson and social influencers such as Joe Wicks who really push fitness and offer tips, workouts and eating plans via their social channels. This is yet another option that works against the typical notion that technology is leading to Gen Z becoming less active than their predecessors.
So, Are Generation Z interested in sport?
Quite simply, yes, Gen Z are interested in sport and they are certainly active. They are currently the most active generation. In 2017, those aged 16-24 were by far the most active with 74% participating in over 150+ minutes of physical activity a week.
Technology encourages activity
Why might this be? Well, technology is providing the ability for children to get active whilst gaming. Pokémon Go was a great example of this. It was proven that those playing the game walked around 1,976 more steps per day when playing the game. This equates to around a mile more per day. Generally players had a boost of around 25 percent in physical activity. Additionally, people are now becoming more influenced by people who they admire. If these people are sporting heroes or influencers interested in sport, fitness and physical activity, then in turn they will become more active.
Children are being taught that exercise is important
Another reason why this generation are proving to overcome the stereotypes is because there has been a huge focus on the importance of sport, and schools are encouraging physical activity whenever possible. Government incentives and efforts by celebrities such as Jamie Oliver have made it so that young people understand the benefits of physical activity. There is a continual effort to make sport enjoyable for all and this has developed a generation that utilises technology but also has a better understanding of health, fitness and well being than any before it.
Big sporting events
There have been many huge sporting events in recent years. All of these will impact young people and encourage them to try new sports. The London 2012 Olympics was extremely influential in Britain and the fact that it was such a success showed young people that those from their very own country, city or town have been successful in sports across the field. A fantastic follow on from this is in women’s hockey where team GB won gold at Rio 2016. There has been a huge adoption of hockey in young people. 10,000 new hockey clubs started following the Rio Olympic games and since the London games in 2012 the number of young girls playing the sport has doubled.
We love the fact that more disabled people are taking part in sport than ever before. 43% of those with disabilities are now active with an extra 14% stating that they are fairly active. The fantastic coverage of the Paralympics and disabled sports is sure to be helping to develop the younger generation of disabled athletes.
In much the same way is the success of Team Sky and the British cyclists in the Tour de France in recent years. Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and now Geraint Thomas have inspired young people to get on their bicycle around Britain. Alongside this, women’s sporting events are becoming much bigger and receiving far more coverage. In 2017 4 million people watched England play the Netherlands in the semi-finals of the Women’s European championship and 178 million watched throughout the championship. This is certainly encouraging the women of Gen Z to get involved in sport.
Whether it is new sports or recently popular sports, the new options that are available when it comes to sport are certainly encouraging Generation Z. Running is the activity that people participate in most followed by fitness classes and then gym sessions. This shows a shift in the sporting activities that are available to people today. Other new activities along these lines are HIIT and CrossFit. These are both fitness based but have also made their way into popular culture mainly thanks to influencers, the variety it offers, and the need for making exercise enjoyable.
Adventure based sports have risen in popularity in recent years. Climbing has become increasingly popular and is fantastic for control, core strength and muscle building. Tough mudder style obstacle course events are also popular and a great day out. These range from being suitable for very young participants all the way up to challenging all day events for those trying to push themselves. These sports are becoming more popular and this is because they are outside of the box. Offering an alternative type of sport that focusses more on the experience than the score, is proving to appeal much more younger generations.
The discussion surrounding Generation Z and their participation in sport is an interesting one. Much of what you read about Gen Z and sport is usually negative. However, we are seeing that technology is playing a big part in the lives of younger people and is most definitely offering a distraction to being active. However, technology is also improving many sports as well as encouraging participation in sport. Setting technology aside, Gen Z are active and are certainly interested in sport. Whether it is due to schools teaching pupils the importance of exercise or role models being more accessible, relatable and therefore inspiring, participation in sport and physical activity is still important to Generation Z.