With America's increasing girth in the news, it isn't surprising to hear that kids are not playing team sports as much as they used to because they'd rather play virtual sports on a DS or Xbox.
Actually, a new analysis by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) suggests more complex reasons than proliferation of digital competition. The association's "U.S. Trends in Team Sports" report says overall participation in team sports is not as strong as it once was because of the economy, emergence of "developing sports," declines in neighborhood and local-park pickup games (which may have something to do with those digital games) and a rising interest in single-sport specialization by young athletes.
The study, based on stats from such sources as the U.S. Census Bureau, the NCAA, the ESPN sports poll and data from youth leagues, did conclude that some team sports did show increases in pickup-game participation. SGMA said basketball, ice hockey, field hockey, touch football, lacrosse, grass volleyball, and beach volleyball all saw increases in casual participation last year. But it says those sports are benefiting because people are opting for less expensive ways to play sports by using public facilities.
In fact, said SGMA President Tom Cove in a release, the economy is doing the most damage to team-sport participation. "Frankly, many families have not been able to afford to pay the basic fees for their children to play in local recreational sports programs or to play on some travel teams," he says -- adding that attrition from traditional sports is also due to the growing popularity of developing sports like lacrosse, rugby, paintball, and ultimate Frisbee, which are attracting athletes who used to play traditional sports like football, basketball, and baseball.
Another problem, per the study: There are fewer and fewer multi-sport athletes in high school, with kids focusing on just one sport during the year versus one sport in the fall, one in the winter, and one in the spring. Also, reduced school budgets are cutting into team-equipment purchases for the 2009-10 school year, per the study.
The firm says participation in baseball saw the biggest declines, with participation down 6.5% versus 2008. While baseball and softball accounted for manufacturers' highest sales of team sports, revenue for baseball and softball gear dropped by 2.6% in 2008 to roughly $602 million. Revenue for football gear rose 1.1% to $496 million, per SMGA. Sales of ice-hockey gear rose 5.9% to $218 million. And sales of basketball equipment rose about a percent last year to $356 million.
Since 2007, court volleyball has seen a 17.2% increase in participation per the firm; indoor soccer is up 11.8%, rugby is up 11.8%, and beach volleyball is up 7.5%.
The SGMA says nearly 45% of all basketball players are over the age of 25, and that females account for the majority of participants in cheerleading, fast-pitch softball, gymnastics, and court volleyball, but that about 72% of participants in team sports are males.