Community-based sports programming in US returning
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As the United States of America emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of play for children and adolescents in sports has shifted, with greater appreciation by parents and policymakers for the physical and mental health benefits of staying active.

This was among the high-level takeaway from Aspen Institute's State of Play 2022 report. It is the institute’s annual analysis of national trends in the delivery of sport activities for youths aged six to 18. 

According to the report, these are some key trends that emerged in 2022: 

  • The number of youth sports parents (27%) who perceived their child has lost interest in playing sports remained high as a barrier to participate. This disinterest held steady from last year after starting at lower rates (18%-19%) in 2020 during the pandemic’s early months. Interestingly, the more money parents have, the less interest their child has in sports, suggesting that wealthier children’s experiences weren’t optimal even before the shutdown. It’s not clear how many children stopped playing sports specifically because they lost interest.

  • Community-based sports programming is returning. Foundations, corporations and other entities have subsidised local, low-cost forms of play, and support from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act has helped in places, allowing providers to reduce the fees they charge families. But it’s a shaky foundation.

  • Travel sports programs surged back. The youth sports tourism industry has rebounded well, underwritten by parents who want or feel compelled to provide their child with a more intense, often year-round experience. What would it take to keep them in local leagues? In a survey, they told us: more playing time for their child, more inclusive environments, and lower costs to play.

  • Coaches are being asked to do more, with many youth suffering from mental health challenges enhanced by the pandemic. But as coaches told us, they need help addressing these issues with players. Very few coaches feel confident identifying challenges with players’ mental health and linking them to the right resources.

The findings in State of Play 2022 are drawn from many sources, among them the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s youth sports participation data from the previous year.

Click here to read more.


United States
North America
All Sports
Sustainable Development Goals
Not Applicable
Target Group
All Target Groups

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