The youth sports exodus

By Nancy Justis, Iowa Youth Sports Initiative

The average child today spends less than three years playing a sport and quits by age 11, according to a 2019 survey of sports parents conducted by the Aspen Institute and Utah State University.

One might suspect this decline is the result of video games and other electronic distractions, but dig into the numbers and a more complex — and upsetting — story emerges.
By the numbers: Only 38% of kids aged 6 to 12 played team sports on a regular basis in 2018, down from 45% in 2008, per the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

But among richer families, participation is actually rising. It's the poorer households where the numbers are trending way down.
The state of play: The youth sports economy has always been big business, but as competitive travel teams have crept into increasingly younger age groups, the industry has doubled in size to more than $15 billion.

The result is a world of private coaching and mega-complexes with families willing — and able — to spend as much as $20,000 per year on youth sports and spend their summers traveling to tournaments around the country.
Meanwhile, low-income families have been priced out, robbing their children of the opportunity to not only excel at a sport but also exercise regularly and make friends.
The bottom line: Youth sports in America has become a story of the haves and the have-nots. In the wake of the coronavirus, where does it go from here?