Youth Sports Trends That May Affect Your Club



Love sports stats?  How about some recent statistics that may have a bearing on what you can expect for your program in upcoming years?  Here are some rather interesting, shocking, or (at least for me) unexpected facts about youth sports that may guide how you run things in the future.

Youth Participation in sports dropped from 30.2% in 2008 to 26.6% in 2015 (Project Play)
Probably the most important trend to keep an eye on.  Participation in youth sport has, unfortunately, been dropping over the last decade.  The reason for this deserves a far more comprehensive analysis than I can provide here, but some factors include rising costs/decreasing income, the rise of e-sports, and pressure to specialize too early.  In fact, this CBC article describes how “most kids quit because they think they’re not good enough — a by-product, experts say, of the hyper-competitive environment that lords over most youth sports.
Implication: Along with doing as much as possible to lower the cost entry barrier to sports, parents and coaches should remember that youth sports should be mainly about the kids – make it fun for them and they’ll enjoy it, plain and simple.  There are many benefits to sports participation other than going pro or picking up a scholarship.

From 2014 to 2015, 43% of parents reported an increase in sports fees paid to schools (Forbes)

I’m willing to bet that this isn’t a huge shock to most parents out there.  The underlying problem here is that the cost of youth sports is rising.  If this trend continues, we will see less kids able to continue or even begin playing sports.
Implication: A stronger effort on fundraising and community interaction may be needed in your program.  You may need to have a fully dedicated marketing individual or team to work on ways to keep sponsors and new donors active with your club.

Multi-Sport Athletes have become less common (Project Play)

The average kid between the ages of 6 and 17 played less than 2 sports in 2015.  This is important as specialization can actually be harmful to the body.  A 2016 University of Wisconsin study of more than 1,000 athletes at 27 high schools found that 49 percent of specialized athletes sustained an injury, compared with only 23 percent of multisport athletes.
Implication: Again, sports should be about having fun, building team skills, and getting kids moving.  Do you remember playing 5, 6, or more sports throughout your childhood?  Allow your kids to enjoy their athletic activities and try new things.

About 27 percent of U.S. public high schools will not have any sports by the year 2020 if the current trends continue (CNBC).

From 2009-2011, $3.5 billion was cut from schools’ sports budgets.  The sports that we all enjoyed taking part in at school may dwindle away as we watch our Gen Z kids go through the public school system.
Implication: This is an issue centered more around public services funding than anything, but it’s important to note as it means you, as a parent, may have to put in a stronger effort to source out affordable sports programming in the community.  Or, perhaps you want to look into starting your own nonprofit sports organization.

Adolescents who play sports are eight times as likely to be active at age 24 as adolescents who do not play sports (Aspen Project).

It’s not all bad!  We just need to do our best to get kids moving and active.  The benefits of regular activity for our kids (and us) are seemingly endless.

Implication: Make sports affordable, make them enjoyable, and remember that your kids’ happiness is more important than your desire for them to be the best.

Matt Langlois

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