The organized sports sector has received increased attention as a setting to promote health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA) to the general population. For significant public health impact, it is important that successful HEPA programs are widely adopted, implemented and continued as ongoing practice. The importance of evaluating the context in which programs are implemented has been identified as critical. However, little research has focused on understanding the organized sports implementation context, including factors facilitating and impeding implementation. In this study, the main factors influencing implementation of HEPA programs in the organized sports setting were studied.
Fourteen sporting programs in the Netherlands aimed at increasing participation in sports by inactive population groups and funded within the National Action Plan for Sport and Exercise (NAPSE) were investigated. The programs were developed by ten Dutch National Sports Federations (NSFs) and implemented by different sports clubs in the Netherlands over a 3-year implementation period (June 2008-June 2011). The qualitative research component involved yearly face-to-face interviews (i.e. fourteen interviews each year, n = 12 program coordinators) and a group meeting with the program coordinators of the NSFs (n = 8). Cross-case comparisons and thematic analyses were performed to identify and categorize important facilitating and impeding factors respectively. The quantitative research component, used to identify the most important facilitating and impeding factors across all sporting programs, consisted of ranking of factors according to importance by the program coordinators (n = 12).
Different factors act during six identified (implementation) phases. When comparing factors across phases, several key learnings were evident. Successful implementation relied, for example, on program design and enthusiastic individuals within sporting organizations. On the other hand, inactive people were hard to reach and participation of sports clubs was not self-evident. The findings were discussed in a broader context.
This study adds to the knowledge base concerning the implementation of sporting programs, aimed at inactive people, in the organized sports setting. The main factors facilitating and impeding implementation were identified. The results of this study can be used by sports practitioners and policy makers when developing and implementing HEPA programs in this setting.