Competitive engineering in Junior Australian Football: Perceptions and experiences of parents, children and coaches of 9-a-side football in an under-8 competition
Junior Australian Football leagues typically adopt rules and positional arrangements that mimic the adult version of Australian Football. This involves fielding 18 players per team on a full-sized oval. While such competition structures are appropriate for adult competition and elite athletes, modifications to field dimensions and number of players may be more appropriate for junior participants. A trial season of competitively engineered Australian Football was piloted by adopting the Australian Football League's (AFL) 9-a-side concept in an Under-8 competition for the first time. The 9-a-side trial occurred on Friday nights alongside the established Under 8's 18-a-side competition conducted on Sunday mornings. Participants in this study experienced both competition formats. A qualitative evaluation of the perceptions and experiences of parents, players and coaches of competitive engineering in junior Australian Football was done. The results indicate that the AFL 9-a-side concept provided an enhanced game experience emerging from (a) a high level of game engagement, (b) the game as an educative context, and (c) an appropriate developmental step before the introduction of players to 18-a-side Australian Football.
Key words: Children; Australian Football; Competition engineering; Sport participation.