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An Already Suffering Enrollment Number in Youth Sports is Just Being Further Damaged by COVID-19

Since 2011 forty percent fewer kids are playing team sports in the U.S.A!

Studies show that kids who stay in team sports into high school are healthier over all. Obviously there’s the physical benefits, but these kids are healthier mentally and emotionally as well. As they grow into young adults studies done by the Aspen Institute show these athletes have a lower rate of depression, substance abuse and they are more productive citizens.

There’s no coincidence that 95% of CEO’s were in fact at some time athletes. So why are we losing kids 6-12 years old?

The first response I usually get when I talk about this is almost always ” kids don’t play like they used to “. Video games are always a big topic when discussing why these kids don’t opt for playing sports. I’m 45, I had video games, lots of my friends did too, we still played sports year round. Were we really that different?

Being in Quarantine during this Covid lock down I’m seeing social media posts with adults losing their minds because they are seeing kids in groups playing basketball, baseball, touch football , so the desire to be active is still present …is it not? What if I said a lot of the reason points to money.

17 BILLION dollars were spent on youth sports in 2019. To put that in perspective that is more money than any professional sport generated the same year other than the NFL. Let that sink in for a second.

While over 60% of high school sports are becoming more affordable for students, over 58% of youth sports are becoming more expensive. Registration fees, travel, equipment are all on the rise. If you have even just 1 child in youth sports you’ll likely spend upwards of $2000 a year on the low end. If you happen to have 2 or more kids in sports…well you don’t have to be accountant, its expensive!

Travel/elite teams have made youth sports even more expensive. In addition to all of the normal expenses in youth sports parents and kids today have another decision to make. These teams can be as much as $3000 to play on.

When these leagues come calling and pulling from rec leagues, town teams etc it often leaves players behind who then become disinterested or maybe even discouraged because mom and dad can’t afford that price tag. Often enough there isn’t even a try out, if the check clears you’re on the team. How many kids walk away to never be heard from again?

The biggest number of kids leaving youth sports come from families who make $25,000 or less ( 12% ). The next biggest group at 8% makes 25k-50k, another 5% make less than 75k. 42% of families cite cost as being the main reason their children do not participate in team sports. Nearly half the country’s kids who don’t play, don’t play because they cant afford it.

Using the $25,000 threshold, 34% of poor families participate in team sports….thats down from 43% 10 years ago. On the other end participation is up in more affluent families from 66% up to 69%. What are we teaching? Pay to play? No money no spot? How many leagues are sitting on thousands of dollars that could easily handle another 10-12% in numbers simply by saying we will cover that cost. How many leagues NEED those kids because they cant field teams? Are those “Elite” teams ( you know the ones where you don’t need try out) really necessary at 10,11, 12 yrs old at the demise and destruction of the city leagues?

We have to do a better job of keeping kids involved. Money can not be the driving factor in youth sports. The next Tom Brady, Mookie betts, Mia Hamm might not live a wealthy home. Video games might be a reason, but I’m guessing it runs deeper than Play Station.

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