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Report Shows Positive Team Sports Trends


Things are looking up in the world of team sports, according to the 2022 U.S. Trends in Team Sports Report recently released by The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), but there are still a few dark clouds to go along with that silver lining. 

SFIA data reveals that while participation numbers are increasing, they are not quite back at pre-pandemic levels. The number of team sports participants increased from 67 million in 2020 to 68.3 million in 2021 – a growth of 1.8 percent – but participation is not yet back to where it was in 2019 at 70.8 million. There are positive signs for the future of team sports to be seen, as the number of participants in the 6-to-12 age group increased from 17 million to 17.6 million. 

“The number of 6-to-12-year-olds playing sports not only increased in 2021, but it is the highest we have seen in the last five years,” points out Tom Cove, president and CEO of SFIA. “After free play and recess, team sports are often the first regular physical activity in which children participate and the experience can be the foundational connection to a lifetime of sports and fitness participation.”

Among the highlights of the report:

• As has been the case for many years, basketball is still the most-played team sport in the United States, with 27.1 million participants in 2021. Basketball has proven throughout the pandemic to have maintained high participation, as it is easy to play solo, in social formats and in small-sided games and has a low cost of entry. 

• Outdoor soccer did overtake basketball as the top sport for 6-year-olds in 2021. 

• Among 23 team sports, the biggest year-over-year changes in participation on a percentage basis belonged to fast-pitch softball (+15.3 percent), gymnastics (+10.9 percent), court volleyball (+8.1 percent) and swimming on a team (+8.0 percent). Participation in these activities was likely aided by the Summer Olympics.

• Five team sports – including flag football, grass volleyball, fast-pitch softball, court volleyball and basketball, saw increased CORE participation over a five-year average for 6-to-17-year olds. 

“While a lot of people were back participating in sports, it is important to remember that many spring season team sports were not at full strength in early 2021 due to the Omicron COVID variant,” adds Cove. “While conclusive evidence remains to be drawn, early indications suggest 2022 participation may reach, if not surpass, 2019 numbers as organized spring sport activities fully returned for the first time in two years.”

The 2022 U.S. Trends in Team Sports Report is free to SFIA Members and is available to the public for purchase for $649.