Something happened in the sports world that many fans of a certain team hope becomes a trend: After 108 years, the Chicago Cubs won another World Series. Of course, for the incredibly patient 110-year-old Cubs fan, this was a continuing trend. For every other fan, it was something new, and something they hope will see again in 2017 and beyond.
Youth sports leagues are experiencing their own trends and changes, maybe not as momentous as the Cubs finally winning a world championship, but nonetheless significant to the directors, coaches, parents, and kids that are affected. Here are some of those trends that will be making an impact in 2017:
The percentage of children classified as inactive jumped from 20 percent in 2014 to a whopping 37.1 percent in 2015. In other words, 3 of every 8 kids are barely getting any physical activity at all, much less participating in a youth sports league. The number had been creeping up for years, but this big increase is especially troubling and underscores the importance of creating an experience that turns young players into lifelong athletes.
Flag Football Surges
Flag football, potentially seen by parents as a safer alternative to tackle football, increased its participation numbers in 2015. Field hockey, baseball, and wrestling also saw gains. Ice hockey, basketball, and tackle football stayed even, and lacrosse, after years of participation increases, declined. Overall, more kids are playing team sports over 2014, but not as many as in 2008.
Cost Is Becoming a Factor
Perhaps the most distressing trend that has emerged is that cost is becoming a deterrent to participating in a youth league. Forty-six percent of teenagers whose families make more than $100,000 a year play team sports, but that number plummets to 28 percent for families making less than $25,000. The proliferation of comp teams and specialization may be contributing this gap—club programs generally are expensive—but increasing costs for rec sports is also an issue. Fundraising will become more important for youth leagues in order to keep costs down and provide opportunities for all kids to play.
Fun, Fun, Fun
As already stated, ice hockey participation is holding steady, but the sport has enjoyed an overall gain since 2008. Part of this increase was due to an effort to reduce body checking, ease off on game schedules, and re-emphasize the fun aspect of the sport to younger rec players. Hockey isn’t the only sport in which this trend is present—soccer and basketball are also increasingly promoting fundamentals, small-sided games, and the benefits of playing and having fun over an intense competitive atmosphere. Although this might be further widening the gap between rec and comp, the bottom line is more kids will enjoy a youth sports league and, most importantly, be active.
Technology has revolutionized how directors run youth sports leagues and how coaches, officials, parents, and players operate and interact within those organizations. Mobile apps have been picking up steam for some time, and 2017 might be the year when they aren’t just a novelty or a convenience, but rather an essential part of communication, administration, and even registration. And because today’s solutions are so user-friendly, parents and coaches won’t hesitate to install the apps on their smartphones and tablets.
For years, keeping statistics was becoming a lost art; in our digital world, maintaining a scorebook by hand became boring to many sports fans. Today’s online league management software is changing that perception by allowing anyone—parents, coaches, players sidelined with injuries who want contribute—to easily keep stats on a tablet or laptop. Those stats can be updated to a league website in real time. The lost art is being rediscovered …
What current trends are impacting your youth sports league?