Nov 16, 2022 - Sports

Youth sports rebound to pre-pandemic levels

Data: Aspen Institute; Note: Includes time spent in free play, virtual spaces, practice and competition; Chart: Axios Visuals

Youth sports participation has finally climbed back to pre-pandemic levels, per the Aspen Institute's annual State of Play report, which surveys youth sports parents.

By the numbers: Children ages 5 to 18 are spending 16.6 hours playing sports each week, the most since before the outbreak of COVID-19.

  • The rebound was driven largely by increased competition, which is up 32% from last year to its pre-pandemic total of 3.7 hours per week.
  • Virtual play is the only activity with lower participation than last year, an expected drop as the era of at-home gym classes fades away.

Yes, but: The kids who enjoy sports may be returning, but a growing number aren't interested in sports at all. Participation declines have been a theme for a while, and the COVID era only made things worse.

  • 27% of youth sports parents currently view their child's lack of interest in sports as a barrier to return to play, per Aspen's report.
  • That's up from 18% during the pandemic’s early months.
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