Back In the Game
After a grueling pandemic year, female team athletes are eagerly resuming play.
Before the pandemic hit, women’s team sports were thriving — and with that growth came new business opportunities for team dealers as demand for high-quality uniforms and equipment rose. Then came the contagion. By all accounts, 2020 was one of the most difficult years on record, with the coronavirus responsible for bringing team sports at all levels and in nearly every part of the country to a jarring halt. Girls’ team sports were certainly no exception.
But now, as the vaccine rollout picks up steam, herd immunity shifts from pipe dream to realistic expectation and America slowly reopens, there is reason for optimism.
“While the timing on returning to sports … has varied from state to state, a full return is almost completed. While the number of spectators has been reduced, millions of high school kids have been able to return to competition,” states NFHS executive director Dr. Karissa Niehoff. She appeals to school administrators and coaches to let all students who want to be involved in high school sports be allowed to remain on the team, arguing that particularly in the case of spring sports – where students were unable to compete in 2020 due to the pandemic – not allowing them to participate for a second year could be devastating. Of course, serving more players translates into more business for dealers.
In fact, team sports are high on the list of activities that kids ages six to 17 intend to participate in during the next 12 months, according to SFIA’s 2020-21 Topline Report. At the high school level, “the participation numbers for this year and last year will be an anomaly due to the pandemic,” admits Theresia Wynns, NFHS director of sports and officials. “Students haven’t been able to participate regularly and will probably be anxious to get back to sports.”
Wynns points out that in 2019 there was significant growth in girls’ basketball and soccer and she remains encouraged for continued post-pandemic expansion. “I’m optimistic that our numbers will grow. The pandemic numbers are getting better in most states and we want to be back on a regular schedule by Fall 2021.”
Team dealers are also raring to go. “Things are looking up — we’re pleased,” remarks Dan Carey, owner of Fort Worth, TX-based Carey’s Sporting Goods. “We’re getting through everything and Texas is very proactive about starting up athletics. Everything will be 100 percent open in Mid-March.”
Even in California, which experienced some of the most stringent and longest-lasting lockdowns and shutdowns in the country, things are looking up for girls’ sports.
“Overall, we’re doing well with our girls’ business — almost better than the boys’ business,” reports Aaron Karsh, director of operations at California Pro Sports in Harbor City, CA. “In California, we haven’t been playing sports for the past year, but the prospects are good. Women’s sports are growing with more players and teams and every aspect is on the rise.”
Now that the timeout is over, it’s time to get back into the women’s game.