Sports study

Youth sports study: Declining participation, rising costs and unqualified coaches

September 6, 2017

Between skyrocketing costs, sport specialization and coaches needing training, youth sports is in the midst of a crisis, according to new data published Wednesday by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association and the Aspen Institute.

Athletic participation for kids ages 6 through 12 is down almost 8 percent over the last decade, according to SFIA and Aspen data, and children from low-income households are half as likely to play one day’s worth of team sports than children from households earning at least $100,000.

“Sports in America have separated into sport-haves and have-nots,” said Tom Farrey, executive director of Aspen’s Sports & Society program. The group released its research at its annual Project Play Summit on Wednesday in Washington. “All that matters is if kids come from a family that has resources. If you don’t have money, it’s hard to play.”

Almost 45 percent of children ages 6 to 12 played a team sport regularly in 2008, according to Aspen data. Now only about 37 percent of children do.

Experts blame that trend on what they call an “up or out” mentality in youth sports. Travel leagues, ones that can sometimes cost thousands of dollars to join, have crept into increasingly younger age groups, and they take the most talented young athletes for their teams.

The children left behind either grow unsatisfied on regular recreational teams or get the message that the sport isn’t for them, Farrey said.

One of the summit’s main goals is to enable informal play and encourage kids to play more than one sport. Aspen, a nonprofit think tank, introduced a partnership with Major League Baseball, the NBA, Nike and a dozen other industry groups to pursue those strategies.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, the keynote speaker, said he had spoken with the NBA, NFL and NHL commissioners and they agreed, “the best athlete is a kid who played multiple sports.”

But pursuit of a college athletic scholarship has “reshaped” the youth sports landscape, Farrey said, and placed an earlier emphasis on winning and elite skill development that often forces children to select one sport at an early age.

That has pushed hyper-competitive selection processes into younger age groups — some basketball analysts rank the nation’s best kindergartners — and ravaged traditional recreational leagues whose purpose is to get kids playing rather than winning games.

That has caused major losses for the “big four” American youth sports: baseball, basketball, soccer and football (both tackle and flag). Those four sports have suffered the most severe losses of any of the 15 team sports SFIA and Aspen surveyed.

The only sports that saw growth over the past eight years were golf, gymnastics, ice hockey and track and field and YOUTH RUGBY.

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(CNN) The rise of rugby in America took another step forward in February 2017 as Las Vegas welcomed record crowds to its international tournament for the seventh year in a row.
But, aside from the 80,000-plus fans attending across the three days, there was another significant barometer of the game's hopes of cracking the lucrative US sports market.
While 32 men's and women's sides took part in the main sevens events at the Sam Boyd Stadium, some 3,000 players and 260 teams competed at nearby venues in North America's largest rugby competition.

USA Rugby is targeting the five-to-13-year-old grassroots players, and it has enlisted the help of one of the greatest exponents of the sevens game.

Not all people can play football, not all people can play soccer, but rugby is a great opportunity for any shapes and sizes, Whether you are a big guy or a small guy like me, you still have an opportunity to play rugby.
Kids came to me and they said, 'I came from football, I came from soccer, this and this, but rugby, it's the best sport because I can score tries, I can tackle someone and I can run around people' -- that's why they are so excited."

Rugby was Nate Ebner's first sporting love, but he returned to the New England Patriots after the Games and was rewarded with his second championship ring in February.
"I'd do it again in a heartbeat, no regrets," he told CNN in Vegas, reflecting on the opportunity to take a break from his NFL career and represent his country.
He said the 12 months from rejoining the US rugby setup to helping the Patriots' extraordinary comeback win against Atlanta Falcons was "the best year of my life."
"Rugby has the hearts of Americans, no doubt," Ebner adds. "The excitement and the feedback that I got from (people) watching in Rio, that have never watched rugby, that watched simply because they heard my story with the Patriots and they were watching the Olympics ... it has been amazing.

Psalm Wooching has decided to play rugby rather than pursue an NFL career.
One player who turned down the attention of NFL talent scouts is Psalm Wooching, former starting linebacker at the University of Washington.
The 23-year-old said he had 20 agents calling him after helping the Huskies reach the 2016 college playoffs.
However, he has decided to focus on rugby -- which he first experienced on a childhood Christian mission to New Zealand, and played until high school in his native Hawaii.