According to a recent report from the Aspen Institute's Project Play initiative, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on youth sports participation in the United States. Prior to the pandemic, efforts were made to increase participation in team sports among children, but these efforts were reversed during the pandemic. From 2019 to 2022, the percentage of children aged six to 17 regularly participating in team sports dropped by about 6%, from 39.6% to 37.4%. This means that around 1.2 million fewer youth were regularly playing team sports in 2022 compared to 2019.
While the percentage of children playing any team sport at least once in a year remained about the same at 61%, this does not indicate regular participation. It is possible that some children only played a team sport once during the year. The decline in participation is likely due to the impact of the pandemic, as many businesses, organizations, and programs shut down or scaled back operations to slow the spread of the virus.
However, not all of the news from the surveys was negative. The percentage of girls regularly playing sports actually increased from 33.0% to 34.5% during this period. Additionally, there was an increase in participation among households making less than $25,000 a year, from 20.9% to 25.8%.
The report also highlighted regional disparities in sports participation. States like Massachusetts and Minnesota had the highest youth sports participation rates, while Nevada had the lowest. The Southeastern region of the United States had the most states with low participation rates.
Despite these challenges, there is hope for increasing youth sports participation. Eight states are already above the 60% sports participation level, and there is a goal to achieve a 63% participation rate by 2030. The Aspen Institute's Project Play Summit emphasized the need for collective action to address this issue, stating that "no one entity can correct the model; it must take all of us."
In conclusion, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on youth sports participation in the United States. However, there are opportunities for improvement and increasing participation rates through collective efforts and initiatives.