Survey Shows Youth Sports Specialization Accelerating – Forbes

A report released by a major sporting goods association is putting a number on what anyone involved with children and athletics is seeing — kids increasingly specializing in fewer sports.

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s annual report on athletic participation, released in December, notes that in 2015, more than 28.6 million children ages 6-17 played a team sport in 2015, up nearly 3 million from 2013 and 2 million from 2014. However, the average number of sports played by those kids is dropping: from 2.09 in 2013, to 2.01 in 2014 to 1.89 in 2015. The peak age for participation, the survey said, is 12.

This is happening even though the evidence shows that early specialization doesn’t give kids any advantages in the long-term, and is likely responsible for an increasing rate of sports-related injuries among youth.

However, I’m also wondering if this decline in the number of sports played per child may also be related to two items SFIA cite as a threat to participation: a lack of money, and a lack of free time.

While SFIA is worried that cost will keep kids from playing sports at all, I wonder if leagues fees (not just for travel leagues, but also for recreational leagues) and pay-to-play requirements at some schools are forcing parents to choose only a few activities, rather than signing up younger kids for a lot of different sports. SFIA also notes that a challenge to organized sports is kids increasingly having more options for activities, but less free time in which to participate in them.

I know in my own house, especially once my kids got to around the age of 10, we and our kids had to make decisions on what activities would stay, and what would go, because those activities seemed to demand more and more time, and we didn’t have it.

With that in mind, you can see why the sports and fitness industry is worried about how these trends will affect purchases of their products, and the financial future of their stores, which big names such as Dick’s Sporting Goods are looking for revenue streams that aren’t so dependent on kids buying sports equipment.

 

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