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.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Denver stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more