Game-Changing Insights: 12 Youth Sports Statistics for 2024

Mike Keenan
Youth sports are a favorite pastime among families across the globe. Though youth sports participation rates have fluctuated greatly during and after the pandemic, we’re still seeing a healthy industry with a number of families participating in all sorts of sports.
To help communities, teams, and families alike get a basic understanding of the world of youth sports, we’ve put together some key youth sports statistics.
Follow along to learn more.

1. Around 60 million children are registered to play youth sports in the U.S.

According to the National Council of Youth Sports, there are around 60 million registered youth sports participants across the country. With an estimate of around 74 million children in the United States, a large portion have participated in youth sports recently.
We love seeing big numbers like this, but as we’ll see with additional stats below, just because a player has been registered in the past, doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve kept up with sports in recent years.
Team sports participation is key for youth development, helping facilitate social skills, boost self-esteem, and improve both physical and mental health and well-being.

2. 81% of Americans agree that sports are important

This participation rate should come as no surprise, given that 81% of Americans agree that “sports are an important institution in the United States.” 74 million people regularly watch sporting events on TV in the U.S., proving this even further. Sports in general, as well as youth sports, are a staple in American lives.

3. Youth sports participation is down in children aged 6-12

37% of younger children played youth sports on a regular basis in 2021, down from 38% in 2019 and 2020 and 45% in 2008. This number obviously dropped in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, but we still haven’t seen it rise back to early 2000s levels.
However, 13-17-year-olds still have a higher participation rate, likely due to the accessibility of school sports.

4. Younger children aren’t sticking with youth sports

Not only are younger children shying away from youth sports in general, 70% of kids also quit sports by age 13. This seems to be due to burnout from over competitive parents, ineffective coaches, or simply that they’re not having fun.
Improving youth sports participation in younger children is going to be a community effort. Parents need to put less pressure on their young athletes while coaches and teams need to do a better job to show that not only can sports be competitive, but they can also be a lot of fun.

5. Older children are playing youth sports more often than younger children

As we mentioned, participation is down for children in the 6-12 age group. However, 54% of high school students report participating in team sports at school. High school sports programs are often more serious, so students interested in playing sports in college sports and beyond are signing up.
According to research done by The Aspen Institute, the most common youth sports children play are basketball (36.8%), soccer (26.5%), and baseball (24.1%). This is from a comprehensive list of 39 different options, ranging from common sports like the aforementioned three to less common sports like parkour (1.1%), squash (0.7%), and fencing (1.4%).

7. Families whose children play organized sports tend to be in lower income brackets

According to The Aspen Institute’s survey of over 2000 parents, 22.3% of families have a household income of $25,000-49,999, 19.6% have an income of $50,000-74,999, and 17.9% have an income of $75,000-99,999.

8. Annual costs vary by sport

While the average family spends $883 per year on youth sports, costs can vary greatly depending on the sport. For example, average costs in 2022 were $1,188 for soccer, $1,002 for basketball, $714 for baseball, and $581 for tackle football.
The Aspen Institute/Project Play survey also discovered that Black and African American families allocate significantly less money each year to their child’s primary sports ($614.33) than white ($1,112.82) or Hispanic ($1,365.20) families.

9. The majority of Americans are interested in public funding for youth sports

52% of Americans say public funding would have the biggest impact on youth and school sports. The more young people we’re able to get into physical activities, the better. However, youth sports can get expensive, especially for large families. 
Paying nearly $1,000 each year for just one child is already a lot, but for multiple children, it can completely eliminate their ability to play.

10. Most youth athletes are playing community-based sports

The majority of youth athletes (58.4%) play community-based sports, like recreational leagues. 27.5% play travel or club, which can often be even more expensive. 39.2% play on their own with friends/family, 28.5% play intramural sports at school, and 30.2% play interscholastic school sports.
It’s important for communities to have as many options for youth sports as possible. For example, offering organized recreational sports, but also having fields and parks open for free play so young people can improve their physical health without having to be part of an organized team.

11. Sports vary in popularity year after year

Sports like soccer (19.5%), swimming (11.9%), and volleyball (4.8%) have had the biggest growth from 2020-2021, while sports like lacrosse (-23.7%), tackle football (-17.9%), and wrestling (-11.5%) have had the biggest decrease in popularity.
Sports like softball (-0.1%), bicycling (-0.9%), and flag football (1.5%) have had the smallest change in popularity, keeping close to the same number of young people interested as in previous years.
These numbers are based on children aged 6-12, and showcase how individual sports can vary in popularity over time. 

12. Girls play sports less than boys

The benefits of youth sports cannot be understanded. Young athletes benefit from better health and self-esteem, which are critical for development, especially in teen years. However, research shows that girls are less likely to participate in sports than boys.
Of those who do stick to sports, nearly two-thirds quit by the time they are 17. The driving force? Despite it being 2023, many girls still think sports are for boys. It makes sense, as data shows boys get 1.13 million more sport opportunities than girls every year.
So, what does this mean for you as a leader in youth sports? Make your league a safe space for all players, no matter who they are or where they are from. Encourage young athletes to get on the field and have some fun! 

Keep these youth sports statistics in mind this year

If you’re looking to start a youth sports league, keep some of these statistics in mind. Pay attention to the demographics of your local community. You may need to lower registration fees to make sports more accessible to all families or consider fundraising for team and player equipment rather than relying on parents.
But more than that, focus on how you can teach kids the sport while also ensuring they’re able to be kids and have fun. Teamwork is important, but so is being safe, enjoying themselves, and learning how to be active.
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