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Michael B. Edwards, Michael A. Kanters, and Jason N. Bocarro

Background:

This study’s purpose was to assess the opportunities for North Carolina adolescents to be physically active in extracurricular middle school environments and to compare opportunities across community types.

Methods:

Data were analyzed based on the results of an electronic questionnaire distributed to a sample of 431 schools with a response rate of 75.4% (N = 325).

Results:

Nearly all schools offered interscholastic sports while fewer than half offered intramurals or noncompetitive activities to students. “Open gym” was offered at only 35% of schools, while 24% of schools offered extracurricular activities to students with disabilities. Overall, 43.4% of schools offered special transportation to students who participated in some extracurricular physical activities. Schools in rural areas generally offered fewer programs and had fewer supports than schools located in more urbanized areas. Over two-thirds of rural schools offered no extracurricular programs other than interscholastic sports.

Conclusions:

Schools can be important settings for physical activity. North Carolina’s middle schools and its rural schools in particular, are falling short in efforts to provide extracurricular physical activity programming recommended by researchers and policy groups.1−6 Lower accessibility to extracurricular physical activities may partially contribute to higher levels of physical inactivity found in the state.

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Jason N. Bocarro, Myron Floyd, Robin Moore, Perver Baran, Tom Danninger, William Smith, and Nilda Cosco

Background:

To better measure physical activity (PA) in outdoor environments, McKenzie and colleagues developed the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC). However, previous SOPARC research has focused on adults, seniors, teens and children. One avenue for extending this work is to expand the child age group code to capture important nuances that can influence children's PA and their environments. This study reports on the reliability of a measure designed to account for PA in parks among children in different childhood age groups.

Methods:

Three groups were developed: 0 to 5 years old (Young Children); 6 to 12 (Middle Childhood) and 13 to 18 (Older Children) based on Erikson's stages of child development. Data were obtained by direct observation in 3 neighborhood parks in Raleigh, NC and 20 neighborhood parks in Durham, NC.

Results:

Kappa coefficients showed high agreement for all age group, gender, and PA codes. For the 3 assessments, the results show that the 3 age group category exhibit acceptable reliability for measuring PA in parks among children.

Conclusions:

The reliability of measuring PA among children by segmenting children by 3 age groups was established. This approach is recommended for future studies of PA among children in parks and other outdoor environments.

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Jonathan M. Casper, Jason N. Bocarro, Michael A. Kanters, and Myron F. Floyd

Background:

Organized sport is viewed as a viable medium for promoting more physical activity among youth. However, participation in youth sport declines significantly among both boys and girls during their middle school years. This study examined middle school students’ perceived constraints to sport participation.

Methods:

Middle school students from 4 schools (6th−8th grade, N = 2465) completed a web based survey (97.3% response rate). Descriptive analysis, t tests, and ANOVA were used to assess extent of perceived constraints and differences among demographic and sport participation level subgroups.

Results:

The most salient constraint perceived by respondents was time, while knowledge was perceived as the lowest among the overall sample. Significant (P < .01) differences in perceived constraints were found among all comparisons groups. Girls, Latinos, lower SES students, and students who did not play sports reported more constraints than respective comparisons groups.

Discussion:

The sociodemographic characteristics of middle school students appear to be a significant factor in their perception of constraints to sport participation. Identifying constraints associated with sport participation can enable policy-makers and administrators to be more deliberate in channeling resources.