Sep 6, 2017
Study: Participation in youth sports continues to decline

Nationwide participation in youth sports is down nearly 8 percent over the last decade, according to a new study published by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association and The Aspen Institute.

In 2008, close to 45 percent of kids ages 6 to 12 played team sports, and today that number sits at 36.9 percent. The same study found that participation in individual sports dropped from 53.2 percent to 49.8 percent over the last six years.

Overall, the report paints a bleak picture for youth sports — declining participation, rising costs, unqualified coaching. Through The Aspen Institute’s Project Play 2020, the organization hopes to turn things around.

Here are some of the trends identified by The Aspen Institute from its annual report:

  • Children from homes in the lowest income bracket are far more likely to be physically inactive than kids from wealthier households.
  • For most sports, participation rates on a regular basis keep declining, with only gymnastics, lacrosse and ice hockey experiencing increases between 2008-16.
  • The average child plays fewer than two sports — a statistic now on a regular down cycle due to sport specialization, even though evidence shows playing only one sport can be harmful to the body and stunt athletic development.
  • Less than one-third of youth coaches are trained in competencies such as safety and sport instruction.

From The Washington Post:

“Sports in America have separated into sport-haves and have-nots,” said Tom Farrey, executive director of Aspen’s Sports & Society program. The group released its research at its annual Project Play Summit on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. “All that matters is if kids come from a family that has resources. If you don’t have money, it’s hard to play.”

Experts blame (declining participation) on what they call an “up or out” mentality in youth sports. Travel leagues, ones that can sometimes cost thousands of dollars to join, have crept into increasingly younger age groups, and choose the most talented kids for their teams.

According to The Aspen Institute’s report, just 32 percent of youth coaches are trained in general safety and injury prevention, and 28 percent are trained in physical conditioning.

Read more from The Aspen Institute.






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