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Youth Sport Participation Is On The Decline. Why?

Boys play a game of baseball in a park on April 22, 2019.
Boys play a game of baseball in a park on April 22, 2019.

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The average child today quits playing sports by age 11, spending less than three years on these activities. 

Only 38 percent of young kids played team sports regularly in 2018 compared to 45 percent about a decade ago, according to research from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Often times today, that’s because they aren’t necessarily having fun and are experiencing at least a moderate level of stress. That information comes from a new national survey from the Aspen Institute with the Utah State University Families in Sports Lab, but it’s just one potential reason for the decline. The cost is another, including travel expenses, which are now the costliest aspect of youth sports. The study found that above all, parents want their kids to have fun playing sports and many parents are willing to pay lots of money to keep kids playing. But children from lower-income families aren’t participating as much. Some in the industry say multiple factors are causing the decline in participation, including the “professionalization of youth sports.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services developed a National Youth Sports Strategy that aims to focus on some of these challenges. 

Is your kid struggling to find the fun in youth sports? Are the costs becoming a burden? What other challenges have you faced?

With guest host Libby Denkmann


Travis Dorsch, associate professor of human development and family studies and founding director of the Families in Sport Lab at Utah State University; he is the author of the Utah State University and Aspen Institute survey 

Jay Coakley, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, where his primary research interest is youth sports; he is the author of “Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies” (McGraw-Hill Education, 2016 | 12th edition)