Athlete Intelligence Blog

Top 3 Reasons Why Participation in Youth Sports is Declining (and Solutions)

5/18/17 3:35 PM / by Lidia Harding

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Participation in sports has multiple positive impacts on children’s mental and physical development but many of us in the sports industry are also aware that participation in youth sports has been at a decline.

There are many opinions on the factors that may influence the decline. We decided to take the issue to our social media pages and ask our followers and fans what they think may be the top 3 reasons why participation in youth sports in declining.

pressure to specialize

Shannon on our Facebook page mentioned that “The pressure for kids to specialize in one sport or activity early on is causing some kids to not try a variety of sports.”

Children are beginning to specialize at a younger age, causing them to put all their time and effort into one particular sport. Although this can increase competitiveness and focus, it can also lead to injury from overuse and intensity.

It also brings up the issue of time. As sport involvement grows more intense, they also take up more time, extended by offseason workouts, and year-round conditioning.

Our friends at MomsTeam covered this topic recently on their website on how playing multiple sports is a healthy advantage. They state that we, as adults,  have to remember the importance of what we’re trying to teach our youth athletes, “It’s to help kids, learn, compete, develop, and enjoy playing sports.”

Can't afford it

Turbo Tax designed an infographic explaining the high cost of youth sports. It shows how the participation in youth sports is determined by the family’s financial resources. In the United States, parents spend an average of $671 per year to cover the cost of uniforms, registration fees, lessons, and additional coaching.

As income level decreases, there is an increase of the lack of participation in youth sports. A 2015 report by Project Play found that only 38% of kids from homes with a $25,000 or less income played team sports, as compared to 67% from homes with over $100,000.

To offer a solution there are many national and local foundations that help elevate the financial costs many communities encounter. There are also programs sponsored by the NFL, MLB, NBA and US Soccer Federation that encourage participation through assisted funding for programs. The Washington Post did a great job in their article “Poor kids are being priced out of youth sports,” highlighting the issues around unaffordable sports and the solutions surround them.

too dangerous

As the awareness of concussions and other injuries increase in youth sports many parents are putting restrictions on the type of sports their children participate in. With the controversy of concussions within the NFL it’s no surprise that football has seen the biggest decline in numbers.

While concussions are serious injuries, the increase in awareness has actually been a benefit in making the sport safer. USA Football has instituted a tacking technique called the Heads Up Program encouraging coaches to teach safer tackling techniques. The NFL has also encouraged youth participation in flag football leagues, decreasing the amount of contact within younger sports.

But the number one injury in sports is from sport specialization and overuse injuries. The American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine states that, “Every year, more than 3.5 million children under the age 14 need treatment for sports injuries, with nearly half of all sports injuries for middle and high school students caused by overuse”

Technology is alleviating parent fears of injuries and concussions. Sport sensors and data analytical software, like Athlete Intelligence, take the guessing out of the game. It offers coaches, parents and athletes an un-biased view of head impacts and performance metrics that can identify overexposure.

remember the benefits

It’s easy to focus on the negative aspects of a declining sporting population, but it’s important to remember the benefits and rewards of team sports as well. Children’s sports have benefits that are hard to achieve elsewhere in life. They teach kids to be part of something bigger than themselves; they show them how to work with others and be part of a team. They also instill healthy habits such as exercise and physical exertion, and those habits can lead to a healthier lifestyle that can benefit our children for their entire lives.

To learn more how Athlete Intelligence offers solutions to coaches, parents and athletes in monitoring athlete head impact data and performance metrics, download our Info Booklet.

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Topics: Injuries, Concussion, Tips, Research