Youth Sports Participation Plummeting as Costs Soar


Youth participation in sports is in decline across America, and one major reason appears to be simple: money.

According to the most recent statistics from nonprofit think tank The Aspen Institute, the “percentage of children ages 6 to 12 who played at least one day during the year” has dropped from 73 percent in 2011 to 69.1 percent in 2017.

In addition, a 2018 survey from the same organization showed that “only 38% of kids ages 6 to 12 played team sports on a regular basis.” That number was down from 45 percent in 2008.

When broken down by demographics, the numbers reveal a large disparity.

As the survey explains, “children from low-income families are half as likely to play sports as kids from upper-incomes homes.”

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In 2017, 69 percent of children from households with incomes of $100,000 or higher played a team sport at least one day during the year.

By contrast, for children in households with incomes of less than $25,000, only 34.1 percent played.

Perhaps more shocking were how those statistics changed over the course of seven years.

In 2011, 66.4 percent of children from upper-income households played sports. But 41.9 percent of children from low-income homes also played.

Are you discouraged by the decline in youth sports participation?

What happened? Why has the gap widened on both ends?

As CBS News reports, the trend “is being fueled by the growth in ‘pay-to-play’ sports, which is making organized athletics prohibitively expensive for many households.”

Additionally, families are paying more on travel for youth sports.

“On average across all sports,” the Aspen survey notes, “parents spent more annually on travel ($196 per sport, per child) than equipment ($144), private lessons ($134), registration fees ($125), and camps ($81).”

The average includes not just children on travel teams, but all children playing sports between the ages of 6 and 12.

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Finances aside, children are also quitting sports sooner, on average after 2.86 years.

The average child quits sports altogether by age 11.

In an effort to counter the downward trends in youth sports participation, The Aspen Institute is launching a new public awareness campaign called “Don’t Retire, Kid” that kicks off this month.

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