Friday, May 22, 2015

US Youth Sports Participation Is Declining As Performance Emphasized Over Causal Participation, Especially Baseball

From The Wall Street Journal, "Why Children Are Abandoning Baseball: Major League Baseball is strong, but the casual young player is vanishing, threatening the sport’s future" by Brian Costa:
US Youth Sports Participation Chart: 2000 - 2013
Source: The Wall Street Journal

This shift threatens to cost Major League Baseball millions of potential fans, raising concerns about the league’s future at a time when revenues are soaring and attendance is strong.

"The biggest predictor of fan avidity as an adult is whether you played the game," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said. An MLB spokesman cited fan polling conducted by the league last year as proof. When asked to assess the factors that drove their interest in sports, fans between the ages of 12 and 17 cited participation as a major factor more often than watching or attending the sport. That was particularly true among male fans in that age group, 70% of which cited "playing the sport" as a big factor in building their interest.
Other popular sports, including soccer and basketball, have suffered as youth sports participation in general has declined and become more specialized. A pervasive emphasis on performance over mere fun and exercise has driven many children to focus exclusively on one sport from an early age, making it harder for all sports to attract casual participants. But the decline of baseball as a community sport has been especially precipitous. [Emphasis added.]

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