Purpose: In this study, longitudinal associations between sports participation and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) were explored. Sports participation was operationalized as membership of a sports club, frequency of sports participation, performing individual versus team sports and performing indoor versus outdoor sports. The concept of HRQoL referred to the self-perceived enjoyment and satisfaction with one’s personal health situation. Methods: Data from 618 fourth-grade primary school children were included at baseline; 10–13 months later, 417 children (response rate 67.5%) were retained. At both time points, children reported on sports participation (Move and Sports Monitor Questionnaire—youth aged 8–12 years) and health-related quality of life (KIDSCREEN-52). Because of the clustering of children in schools, data were analysed using linear mixed models. Analyses were adjusted for sex, age, BMI, household composition, SES and frequency of sports participation. Results: The questionnaires were fully completed by 417 children. High sports-active children showed better scores on almost all dimensions of HRQoL than moderate [difference (B) = − 1.82 (p = 0.05) to − 1.51 (p = 0.05)] or low ports-active children [difference (B) = − 3.67 (p < 0.001) to − 1.95 (p = 0.03)] and non-sports club members [difference (B) = − 5.58 (p < 0.001) to – 2.65 (p = 0.02)]. Unlike frequency, the other examined characteristics of sports participation were only to a limited extent longitudinal associated with HRQoL. Conclusion: As frequency is more relevant than the form of sports participation, children should be encouraged to perform any kind of sports activity on a very regular base.