SFIA Releases 2020 Trends in Team Sports Report

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In a year unlike any other, there were still team sports being played — albeit in a very different, scaled-down environment. Nevertheless, even though many of the numbers are obsolete because of the radical changes in participation in 2020 brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) took a look back at 2019 participation and found some good news that will hopefully bode well for team sports when a sense of normalcy returns.

According to the latest 2020 Trends in Team Sports Report, which tracks team sports participation and trends in America, including youth participation, ethnic breakdowns, gender disparities and much more, in 2019 team sports participation increased 3.2 percent. The strong numbers were largely attributed to growth in more popular team sports, such as basketball (2.9 percent), outdoor soccer (4.5 percent), flag football (3.2 percent) and lacrosse (0.8 percent).

While the report indicates healthy growth in the team sports category, 16 of the 23 team sports tracked actually decreased in participation. Many niche sports, such as ultimate frisbee, paintball, beach/sand volleyball and ice hockey, experienced significant decline.

“The growth in team sports participation in 2019 is encouraging, but with the pandemic it feels as though we are taking two steps forward and one step back,” says Tom Cove, SFIA president and CEO. “Our industry, youth leagues and sports organizations must unite forces to welcome children back to the game once it is safe to do so. Team sports have suffered greatly in 2020 and America will be eager to return to play.”

In a metric that speaks directly to the issues of specialization in team sports In 2019, the number of sports per participant decreased to its lowest number ever at 1.84 sports per participant. A larger number of sports per participant, especially at younger ages, suggests kids are sampling more sport, which encourages the development of a variety of skills, reduces repetitive use injuries and exposes athletes to a greater variety of opportunities for a lifetime of activity.

The trends highlighted in pre-pandemic 2019 were promising for the future of team sports in America, and there is hope that the pandemic has encouraged youth across the country to experiment with new sports/activities, and emerge with new skills.

The 2020 Trends in Team Sports Report is free to SFIA members and available to the public for purchase at www.sfia.org.