Youth Sports See A Slow Decline

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Why are fewer kids playing team sports? From hypercompetitive parents to video games, we dive in.

Grand Street Campus Wolves QB Sharif Harris-Legree #8 in action against the Kennedy Knights in a high school football game, Friday, Sept. 18, 2015, in Brooklyn, NY.  (AP)
Grand Street Campus Wolves QB Sharif Harris-Legree #8 in action against the Kennedy Knights in a high school football game, Friday, Sept. 18, 2015, in Brooklyn, NY. (AP)

We may be a sports-crazy nation, but the latest surveys show American kids are backing off team sports. Not abandoning. Not by a long shot. But backing away from school football and basketball and baseball teams just when obesity and diabetes are hitting the young and a good sweat and bonding and exercise all seem like good ideas. The reasons? Well, look at new fees, pay-to-play. Look at video games and their allure. Look at an obsession with individual performance – kids and their parents dreaming of the pros. This hour On Point, American kids and team sports.
-- Tom Ashbrook


Michael Rosenwald, staff writer for the Washington Post. (@mikerosenwald)

Tom Farrey, executive director of the Sports and Society Program at the Aspen Institute. Author of "Game On." (@TomFarrey)

Amanda Visek, assistant professor of exercise science at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. (@ajvisek)

Edwin Moses, chairman of the Lauresus Sport for Good Foundation and former Olympic track champion. (@edwinmoses)

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post: Are parents ruining youth sports? Fewer kids play amid pressure. — "The number of children playing team sports is falling, with experts blaming a parent-driven focus on elite travel clubs, specialization in one sport and pursuit of scholarships for hurting the country’s youth sports leagues. Baseball, basketball, softball, soccer and touch football — long staples of American childhood — have all taken hits, worrying public health advocates, league organizers and professional sports organizations."

The Aspen Institute:Sport For All | Play for Life -- "Fewer than half of children ages 6 to 11 meet the U.S. Surgeon General’s recommendation for engaging in at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. One way to address that deficit is through sport activity, especially team sports, as children often enjoy playing in groups. But fewer of them are doing so now than just a few years ago. The federal government does not track sports participation rates among preteens, but according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), which does, 40 percent of kids played team sports on a regular basis in 2013, down from 44.5 percent in 2008. Further, only 52.2 percent took part in those activities even once during the year, down from 58.6 percent."

NPR News: Playing Youth Sports Takes A Lot More Green Than It Used To — "In recent years, club teams have come to dominate youth sports, many parents and coaches say, and children and teens who don't participate can be at a significant disadvantage when they try out for sports in high school. Parent Lenise White says she has always wanted to give her son any advantage she could afford. But the steep price — just to outfit her growing athlete — hasn't been easy to cover."

This program aired on October 16, 2015.


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