More Casual Participation In Sports Mirrored In Spending Habits – Forbes

Americans are more willing than ever to try new sports, but less willing to fully commit to any one sport, especially with their wallet.

That is, in part, the story told by the 2017 Sport and Fitness Industry Association Topline Participation Report which the group released Tuesday. The SFIA surveyed a representative sample of 24,134 Americans ages 6 and up to determine the activity levels and sports engagement of the United States.

Children participating in the Play 60 program play a flag football game at halftime of an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

The results showed that casual participation, especially in team sports, has increased while what the group refers to as core participation (engaging in a sport 50 or more times per year) and overall fitness spending have fallen off.

“It’s encouraging to see positive growth rates for such a wide variety of athletic options, but at the same time, reduced levels of core participation have to be a real concern for our industry,” SFIA president and CEO Tom Cove said in a press release. “It’s important to transform some of today’s casual participants into tomorrow’s core athletes.”

The more nonchalant attitude towards sports participation has contributed to a slight downtick in overall fitness spending with team sports taking the biggest hit at an eight percent decline.

While this type of monetary dip – and the estimated net decline in core participation of 4.67 million people in team sports over the past five years– are bad signs for the fitness industry, it is less clear if they are bad for Americans generally.

“Casual participation is not inherently a bad thing,” Cove said in an email. “Casual is good if it reflects a culture of activity where the participants do a wide variety of sports and recreation endeavors. That’s a wonderful reflection of a balanced healthy lifestyle.

“Where casual participation rates are concerning is when the number reflects a diminished commitment to activity overall, meaning casual indicating less physical activity generally.”

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