Why is Youth Sports on the Decline?

Talking with a Cranston dad after church, he mentioned that our local Little Leagues are taking a hit in terms of enrollment, and have a smaller batch of teams this year.  I wondered if the trends went further than just Cranston and found this article:  Participation in youth sports on the decline | SouthCoastToday.com.  As you can see from the stats cited,  nationally baseball little leagues are down by 24% since 2000.  Basketball has also seen a reduction in numbers by about 9%.  Soccer is on the rise, and hockey looks like it is exploding.  But still, the overall numbers are down, since hockey is a relatively smaller sport than baseball or basketball.

So what gives?  Are we just a couch potato society where kids would prefer to stay home and play Nintendo and Wii?  Is it the competition from other activities like karate and drama clubs?  Or is this a result of families in the middle class simply not having the resources, especially since the economic collapse of 2008, to put toward their children’s athletic development?

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2 responses

  1. A few ideas:

    1. Not as much disposable income available to participate. Sports and scouting are expensive.
    2. Families are paying more than ever for entertainment. When your cable bill is $160, it creates a perverse incentive to ‘get the most out of it’. Same for video gaming ($400 consoles with $60 games).
    3. A -lot- of parents have gone totally bat-guano insane about cleanliness/germs, enough to keep their kids ‘safe’ from things like their friends and shared sports equipment.
    4. Fear of pedophilia in any adult-led activity that the parents aren’t present 100% of the time.
    5. Increasing focus on activities that are likely to bolster college admissions are taking the place of ‘fun’ and ‘healthy’ activities.
    6. High health insurance deductibles make minor sports injuries into budget-busting events for many families.

    Basically, parenting for many in the USA has become more of an episode in mass-hysteria than nurturing. As a soon-to-be parent, I worry about keeping ‘the craziness’ I see with other parents away from my family. Still, it creeps in via magazines, newspapers, and TV shows that seem designed to support a danger-obsessed cultural norm.

  2. It was pointed out in a land use hearing at the State House this very week that suburban sprawl, where kids groiw up on streets without sidewalks and there is no where to walk to, is another factor. Such kids have to be driven everywhere they can play, and parents are often too busy to do so. Its the opposite of economic collapse, my parents weren’t wealthy enough to move to the suburbs so I went out to play on the streets or walked to a schoolyard with basketball, handball courts, and ballfields about 1 or 2 blocks away. No need for anyone to drive me there!

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