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Are Youth Sports in Danger?

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Here at Sports Obsessive, we usually keep you up to date on college sports, professional sports, or wrestling. Front Office Sports, however, were talking about youth sports, and some of you know I have coached different middle and high school sports. I got to thinking that, if youth sports change or even levels of players go down, then does it change our jobs and our love of sports?

Stopping Youth Sports

I know a lot of states have put a stop to school sports for older children or have put certain controls on the school sports because of the pandemic. However, youth sports are usually decided by the community, neighborhood, or city. A lot of youth sports never stopped playing (like travel baseball and softball in my area), or have returned to play recently. Some sports in other areas haven’t been able to play at all.

Money in Youth Sports

I didn’t realize that youth sports had become a 19 billion dollar industry. Much of this is because of travel sports tournaments that are all the rage now.  A new survey by the Aspen Institute has found that 29% of parents reported that their child is no longer interested in sports. Why? They give all kinds of reasons, like interest in other things, or being scared of getting Covid-19 or giving it to others.

Another finding mentioned was that the amount of income a family has will impact their children’s participation in sports. Doesn’t it seem like it always comes back to that? But think about it: if your child is playing travel ball, don’t you need the money to travel to different communities, parts of your state, or even out of state? Many teams in my area travel 8-9 hours away at least two or three times a travel season. If you have more than one child, it gets even more expensive. Some kids that don’t have the money either can’t play or need scholarships from the area which may lead to other problems.

Youth Sports Create Fans

I’ve noticed that the players competing in our area aren’t as interested in the professional, college, or high school sports teams if they can’t watch them. There is a big difference between sitting in the bleachers, cheering for your local high school team, and looking for the score in the paper. Same thing with your college teams. Yes, with most you can either stream or watch on television, but actually seeing them or even meeting them is what seals your fandom at a young age. It makes you want to play and get better at your sport.

E-Sports and Video Games

Sports participation was at an all-time high in 2019, with 45 million youth program participants. With video games rising in popularity and live sports still paused in many communities, that upward trend is at risk. From speaking to many parents and teachers, they are seeing a huge rise in interest in E-Sports and video games in their children, especially now that a lot are in virtual school. My state is even looking at adding E-Sports as a club sports, then eventually adding it as a sport governed by the athletic association.

Aspen Institute Findings

Below are some key statistic from the Aspen Institute’s investigation:

  • 28.9% of parents reported their child is no longer interested in sports as a potential barrier to resuming.
  • 63.9% reported fear of illness in children—59.3% in parents—as a barrier to resuming sports.
  • 28% of parents reported they would willingly spend more money on sports when they return.
  • Children went from playing sports 13.6 hours per week pre-pandemic to 7.2 hours per week in September.

Should we be concerned about youth sports? I think we should. We are seeing fewer kids coming out for sports and becoming more sedentary.  Kids are becoming less social in person and more comfortable interacting online. What will our sports look like in 10 years if today’s ten-year-olds quit playing? Will my Florida Gators have teams? No, I don’t think it is close to being that bad yet, but I do think we may want to be looking at it for the future.

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Written by Samantha Sayre

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