The state of sports
Young America’s changing priorities

The field is as important as the classroom. This belief has remained the cornerstone of the U.S. education system for years. After all, where else will you find schools with lush grass fields, basketball courts, running tracks and several sports teams, all in one place? That almost every public school today has an interscholastic athletic program speaks volumes about the country’s belief in the concept of holistic education.

The importance of sports in fitness and character building is undeniable, but for schools, it is also a matter of rankings, trophies, and school pride in general. This is a clear reason why sports programs often end up with an enviable chunk of the annual school budget. But despite the obvious merits and support from all quarters, student participation in sports seems to be on a steady decline. So how much of this is true and what are the reasons behind it? Piplsay (powered by Market Cube) reached out to parents* across the country to understand the ground reality and this is what we found:

That, 40% of children do not actively participate in any sport is a telling sign of the declining sports culture. The good news, however, is that an almost equal percentage of them are playing multiple sports, which can lead to less burnout. Though football continues to remain extremely popular in the country, student participation in the sport seems to be on a steady decline, as parents increasingly worry about head injuries and concussions. Instead, flag football, a safer version of the sport is now preferred over the original tackle form. Even cheerleading, once a sideline activity, is fast becoming mainstream today with competitive cheerleading programs seeing a huge uptick.

Even though 41% of children seem interested in taking up sports professionally, only 7% of parents actively encourage them on this front, as revealed by the Piplsay survey. While high costs seem to a big hurdle, the explosion of travel teams is something that can no longer be ignored. Sometimes costing thousands of dollars for membership, these elite clubs and private programs promise a year-long schedule for kids under the best professional setup. Often, talented wealthy players opt out of their local leagues for these programs, leaving the former with fewer players and resources.

For those who cannot afford the league but can still spend, private coaching continues to remain the next best option. But sports-related expenses are not the only reasons for the declining interest. Even from a pure recreation point of view, sports is fast losing its appeal to video games, streaming platforms, and many such distractions. Still, the fact that over 60% of parents encourage sports participation for passion, fitness, and social reasons reflects their continued support for sports. And that definitely is a good thing.

*Based on 18,000 online responses

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