The number of kids playing sports is declining across the US. Surveys for Project Play 2020 show that only 36.9 percent of boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 12 take part in sports. The number is down 7.6 percent from 2008 when 44.5 percent of all US kids participated in at least one sports program.
Meanwhile, kids are less active than ever before. The number of kids in the 6-to-12 age group not taking part in sports is over 20 percent, while among adolescents in the 13-to-17 age group this number is 19 percent. And the biggest losers of this decline in participation are the big four team national sports: football, basketball, baseball, and soccer. Here’s a brief breakdown of how much and why.
While basketball remains the number one urban sport in America, it is yet to take over the landscape outside of cities. The lack of facilities in the rural parts of the nation makes it hard to come into contact with basketball. Additionally, the decline is also the result of a unique physical build required to participate in the sport, as US citizens are getting shorter. And since kids don’t start growing until they reach puberty, their height makes it difficult to take part in the sport competitively.
Baseball’s decline is mostly due to its inability to connect with kids, and participation is down by 1 to 2 percent each year. According to a report by the Washington Post, the sport is struggling because many parents didn’t play baseball as kids and didn’t introduce it to their children. It is essential for the game as its sluggishness, conservative rules and lack of action make it hard to adapt without a strong influence from a parent.
Historically speaking, soccer is only a recent addition to the plethora of team sports in the US, despite being the most popular sport in the world. The lack of facilities and specialized coaches makes it hard for kids to play the game.
However, after the US Women’s Soccer Team won the World Cup in 2015, there had been a spike of girls taking part in the sport. So, there might be a general turnaround for soccer participation in 2026, when the USA will host the World Cup alongside Canada and Mexico.
Football (Tackle) -5.4%
The NFL remains the favorite among sports fans across America. However, the number one reason for its decline among kids is the bad press the sport has received over the years regarding safety and players getting concussions from tackles during games. Parents don’t want to send their kids to hurt themselves or other players on the field.
How to Change This Trend?
All four sports will need to make changes to turn things around. Nevertheless, parents can take small steps and motivate their kids to play sports by highlighting the importance of a healthier lifestyle. And it could be as simple as receiving fundraising assistance from a professional league network that works with communities to improve facilities, create better leagues and promote youth sports. In doing so, parents will inspire kids to take up a game and lead better lives.