Oct 19, 2021 - Sports
Youth sports in Colorado reach inflection point amid COVID
Illustration of basketball wearing a face mask
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Youth sports have been upended amid the pandemic — but they're starting to make a comeback, particularly in places like Colorado, per a new Aspen Institute report first provided to Axios.

State of play: 23% of kids living in Western states, including Colorado, are more active than they were pre-pandemic, a higher rate than any other region in the U.S., according to the survey of youth sports parents.

  • Of note: 44% of children in the West are back to playing at pre-pandemic levels, despite the region reporting the highest rate of full COVID-related restrictions on youth sports.

Yes, but: One-third of kids in the West who participated in sports prior to the COVID-19 crisis are playing less now.

  • 60% said a fear of illness was a barrier to athletics.
  • 35% of young athletes are no longer interested in the activity, their parents say.

The intrigue: COVID-19 vaccination and testing policies may also keep some kids away from the programs, including in Aurora, where student athletes must be vaccinated or tested every two weeks.

Why it matters: During the pandemic, obesity rates among children increased as parents reported the decline of their children's mental health.

  • 49% said their kid's mental state improved once restrictions were lifted and they could return to sports, according to the Aspen Institute.

Flashback: Sports at school and in private clubs were hit hard last year. Soccer clubs in Colorado, for example, saw as many as 40% of their participants leave last year, Aaron Nagel, executive director of the Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer Club, told the Denver Post.

  • The organization, which represents about 10,000 players each season, lost 15% of its players.

The big picture: Youth sports here and across the country are at an inflection point, Jeff writes. While accessibility and participation are starting to rebound, there's still work to be done.

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