The primary purposes of this study were to conduct a quantitative analysis of the content of North American Jewish day school websites – specifically to ascertain mentions of interscholastic sports and intramural physical activity opportunities and to determine how their prevalence differed by school gender composition (i.e., coeducational vs. single-sex), level (i.e., elementary vs. secondary vs. combined), and religiosity (i.e., Liberal vs. Orthodox vs. Haredi).
The current study included a wide and diverse sample of Jewish day schools (n = 516) in the United States and Canada (n = 237 cities). In general, it illustrates that North American Jewish day schools use their websites inadequately to inform and advocate about their interscholastic sports programs and intramural physical activities in general, or to promote student engagement in ongoing on-campus physical activity programs. There were substantial differences in the websites relative to sports and physical activity according to student gender composition (coeducational, single-sex), school level (elementary, middle, high), and religiosity (Liberal, Orthodox, Haredi).
Our investigation is an important first step in completing a quantitative content analysis of Jewish day schools’ websites mentioning sports and physical activities. School websites are abundant and they are important sources for sharing salient information about programs, policies, and values. Subsequently, they can be an important vehicle in identifying the importance of physical activity and where and when on campus that children can accrue a portion of their recommended 60 min of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
Although innovative and important, the study is descriptive and includes an assessment of websites at a single time interval. It is essential that children engage in physical activity, and additional studies need to determine how school websites evolve over time to inform constituents about the importance of physical activity and how to accrue it at school. We acknowledge there are other means besides school websites for communicating information about sports and physical activity, including back-to-school nights, calendars, emails, promotional brochures and pamphlets, newsletters, and yearbooks. Thus, future studies could be conducted to identify the extent to which various media are used to inform and promote sports and physical activity. As well, surveying appropriate school personnel and making onsite visits to schools relative to the sports and physical activities at their schools would be useful in corroborating the information on their websites.
Finally, researchers – particularly those with access to Orthodox and Haredi schools – should interview school leaders’ attitudes toward and beliefs about sports and physical activity and qualify conditions under which they would promote them on school websites and through other communications media. In the meantime, schools should assess their own websites to determine if they are matching their goals and interest.