Today, the mentality is changing. We as kids come from a lineage of parents who were multi-sport athletes. Now, most of us like to specialize in one sport, if not at all. According to the Wall Street Journal, the combined total of participation in the four most-popular team sports in the United States—basketball, soccer, baseball, and football—fell roughly four percent from 2008 to 2012. Because of the regarded valuability of youth sports on child obesity, the decline could have a long-lasting consequence.
There are many reasons as to why the participation rates are dropping. Over time, the everyday pressures put on our youth evolved from what our parents experienced into what it is today. As a student who recently applied to college, I can attest to the stress involved in applying. With colleges looking at not only how your grades look, but at your volunteer experience, it becomes a hassle to try and fit sports into the schedule. Another reason is that technology is taking away our kids’ interest in staying active. With video games becoming easily accessible, kids would much rather spend their time staring at TV or computer screens and fidgeting with their game controller.
One major issue regarding the participation plunge is safety. There has to be an issue when President Obama comes out in saying that if he had a son, he would have to have a long and hard thought before he would allow him to play football. With the discussion about concussions currently in the spotlight, many sports, not just football, have started to turn parents’ heads. Hockey, baseball, and soccer are the sports most feared to be affected. While parents are justified in being worried for their kids’ safety, the bigger issue is the increase in child obesity and inactivity.
According to the Aspen Institute, the lack of activity is closely linked to one of the biggest problems in the United States, obesity. In children ranging from the ages of five to seventeen, nearly forty percent of girls and thirty-five percent of boys are obese. However, research shows participation in sports has its benefits. Kids are one-tenth as likely to become obese, 15 percent more likely to go to college, and they are more likely to be productive adults than children who do not play sports.
One major issue that has helped influence the plunge in participation is the cost of sports. Families that can afford more can allow their kids to play more. Children coming from the lowest income bracket are half as likely to participate in sports than those in wealthier households. Consequently, in urban or poorer areas, schools often provide fewer options and opportunities for kids to play sports.
Something needs to be done, or else when our generation becomes parents, we will be losing our nights of taking our kids to practice. Sports play a vital role in helping our kids learn valuable lessons, and if those are taken away, imagine our world.
Photo by USAG-Humphreys