Significant progress is being made in the sometimes perplexing and frustrating domain of youth sports. Within the study of children aged 6 to 12, the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program’s Project Play identified the following trends:
- For the third year in a row, the percentage of children who participate in team sports continuously has risen. Positive spikes were seen in baseball, cheerleading, gymnastics, lacrosse, softball, swimming, tennis, volleyball, and wrestling.
- For the fourth year in a row, lesser children were physically inactive.
- Multisport games have made a small reappearance.
However, there are still massive differences. Although in 2018, annual sports participation rose to 38%, it is still much below the 45 percent level seen in 2008. Physical inactivity is thrice as common in children from low-income households. Every year, parents spend over $700 per child solely on a single sport, with some families expending tens of thousands of dollars. Additionally, only three out of ten young coaches have received training in the last year.
Below are a few surveys of the national landscape in youth sports compared to past years:
Core participation in select sports
Major League Baseball’s attempts to revitalize certain local towns, as well as the travel-ball culture, contributed to a rise in youth involvement in baseball. Tackle football’s popularity continued to dwindle, and it was once again surpassed by flag football. Over the last five years, soccer has lost 474,000 children. Soccer’s involvement rate is currently comparable to tennis rather than baseball or basketball.
Average annual family spending on one child (ages 1-18)
According to the Aspen Institute and Utah State University Families in Sport Lab, a 2019 nationwide study of youth-sports parents revealed that a household spends $693 per child per year on one sport. Ice hockey, skiing/snowboarding, field hockey, gymnastics, and lacrosse are the most costly sports. Track and field, flag football, skateboarding, cross country, and basketball are the least expensive.
Age children quit regularly playing a sport (ages 3-18)
As per the Aspen Institute/Utah State parent poll, an average child nowadays spends fewer than three years practicing a sport before quitting at age 11, typically because the sport is no longer enjoyable. Field hockey, skiing/snowboarding, and flag football are the athletics with the greatest lifespan.
Youth coaches with training by subject
Over four out of every ten coaches said they had never been trained in concussion recovery, general safety and preventive care, muscular exercise, or effective motivational tactics. The current data indicates that when instructors training, it isn’t usually every year.
Total sport participation rates
Great news: Since growing in 2014, the percentage of children who play at least one day throughout the year has been stable for the past five years. In addition, the number of children who participate in team sports on a routine basis grew by about a full percentage point in 2018. The worrying thing is that for the third year in a row, fewer children are participating in an individual sport.