Oct 23, 2020 - Sports

The youth sports exodus continues

a kid walking away from a trophy
Illustration: Sarah Grillo

Youth sports remain in a moment of crisis, as the health and financial situations brought on by the pandemic continue wreaking havoc.

By the numbers: The Aspen Institute's recent survey of 1,103 parents with sport-playing kids aged 6-18 paints a rather bleak picture.

  • 29% of parents said their kids are simply not interested in sports, up from 19% when they were last asked in June.
  • 64% cite fear of their child contracting COVID as a barrier to resuming sports.
  • 28% say they'd spend more money on youth sports now than pre-COVID, but 27% say they'd spend less.
  • 6.4 fewer hours: Kids are spending just 7.2 hours per week playing sports, down from 13.6 before the pandemic.
  • Solo sports on the rise: Cycling and golf have risen in popularity during the pandemic, as their relative drops in participation are minimal compared to team sports.

What they're saying: Kids, parents and coaches alike are feeling the weight of uncertainty and the fear of permanent loss.

  • "It’s not enough. It's not nearly enough," 17-year-old Aaron Teklu tells the New York Times of the minimal basketball he's been able to play. "[Basketball] has always helped me deal with my emotions and what is going on in my life."
  • "The time my boys spend playing is down probably 80 percent," added high school basketball coach Tyrone Riley. "I spend a lot of time wondering how we're going to get out of this."

The bottom line: "This is a moment of historic crisis," says the Aspen Institute's Tom Farrey. Unfortunately, its roots are also deep enough that it's going to take more than the pandemic ending to right the ship.

Go deeper: Coronavirus puts youth sports on pause

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