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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Youth sports in America have been put through the wringer amid the pandemic, and while accessibility and participation are starting to rebound, there's still work to be done.

State of play: 47% of kids have returned to their pre-pandemic level of play and 17% are more active than they were pre-pandemic, per the Aspen Institute's State of Play report, which surveys youth sports parents.

  • Yes, but: 28% of kids who played sports pre-pandemic are no longer interested, an increase from 19% five months ago.
  • In other words, while nearly half of kids have returned to youth sports normalcy, the pool of kids who've lost interest in sports is growing larger.

By the numbers: The report's findings are vast and varied, with data split between promising and troubling.

  • Obesity among American children increased during the pandemic, from 19% to 22%, per the CDC.
  • 25% of parents reported their children's mental health decreased during the pandemic, while 49% said it improved once restrictions were lifted and they could return to sports.
  • Some good news from 2020: More youth did something physically active. 14% of young kids (6–12) and 15% of teens (13–17) failed to engage in sports last year, down from 17% and 18%, respectively, in 2019.

Between the lines: Outdoor activities were able to safely return sooner than indoor sports, which resulted in a flock of new participants.

  • Basketball led the way, with 21% of parents saying their kids tried hoops for the first time during the pandemic. A good portion of that was thanks to the prevalence of outdoor courts.
  • Other sports that at least 10% of kids sampled for the first time: Baseball (16%), cycling (12%), swimming (11%) and soccer (10%).

The last word, from Tom Cove, president and CEO of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association:

"We're at an inflection moment of sports in America. Will we take some of the love of sport and thirst for activity and build on it to get more participating?"

Go deeper

Oct 27, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

Polk County to expand COVID vaccine outreach to kids

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Polk County will launch a COVID-19 outreach program aimed at getting kids vaccinated in coming weeks, according to a resolution supervisors approved Tuesday.

  • It'll cost around $75,000 and could include incentives like gift cards, movie passes or inflatable games.

Why it matters: Kids accounted for more than 25% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S., as of Oct. 21. Yet many parents remain hesitant of the vaccine, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and a recent Ipsos poll.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
6 mins ago - Economy & Business

Why it's so hard to tax wealth

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The wealth tax that wasn't a wealth tax isn't even a tax, now. The Democrats had a meticulously constructed 107-page proposal to pay for a large chunk of their spending plans with a tax on billionaires, but it died ignobly on Wednesday, the same day it was unveiled.

Why it matters: The dream of a wealth tax will never die as it so neatly generates revenue by reducing inequality. But there are three main reasons why that dream is likely to remain just a dream for the foreseeable future.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Health

Public health messaging lessons for the next pandemic

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

"Be first, be right, be credible" is the mantra of public health experts in a crisis. It's difficult to argue that the health community has regularly managed to be any of those three during COVID-19.

Why it matters: A pandemic isn't just a medical emergency — it's also a communications emergency. The U.S. public health establishment, hamstrung by bad data and political interference, has struggled with the latter.