After decades of rapid growth, youth sports participation is on the decline, according to a study of 17 sports between 2009 and 2014 by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Youth athletics have witnessed an overall decline of over nine percent, with some sports increasing in participation, and others decreasing.
The Aspen Institute also provided research on youth sports participation, finding that there are more inactive children now than five years prior, and participation in all major sports has decreased, except for hockey and lacrosse, which have grown. The researchers attribute the trend to a perception by parents that children are too focused on athletics. Parents could be turning towards other extracurricular activities for their children, like playing an instrument.
However, there may be other underlying causes to the monumental shift in sports participation. ESPN wrote an article about the subject, noting that the “No. 1 fear of sports parents is seeing their child injured on the field.” It turns out that this is an increasingly real fear. The article cites injury stats from the CDC, which state that 2.7 million kids under 20 were treated for ‘sports and recreation’ injuries between 2001 and 2009, and reports of traumatic brain injuries for those under 19 rose 62% over the same period.
While this may be a contributing factor, injury information is still far behind where it should be, and with better injury documentation, management, and overwatch, the risk of youth sports may be lowered enough to entice parents back to youth athletics. Until then, youth athletics may continue to see increasing attrition rates.