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Feature Story

February 2014


Sports Participation Report Reveals Mixed News

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Some 15 of 24 team sports grew in core participation, according to the latest U.S. Trends in Team Sports Report published by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA). Core participants are those who participate in sports on a regular basis, with definitions varying by sport. At the same time, the report revealed that traditional team sports, such as football, baseball and basketball, saw declines.

Compared to 2011, which saw an increase in only five of the 24 sports, the surge in core participation in the most current U.S. Trends in Team Sports Report is proof of the growing trend of specialization in team sports. While there are more quality participants (core), the report also reveals the decease in overall (casual) team sports participants over the past five years. Since 2008, team sports have lost 16.1 million participants, or 11.1 percent of all team participants, measured by those who played at least once a year.

Football (tackle, flag and touch), baseball and basketball have been the three sports most affected by the loss of overall participants in the past five years. Growth sectors have been seen in non-traditional sports. Notably, the largest sectors with positive growth since 2008 are gymnastics (5.1 million participants in 2012), Ultimate Frisbee (5.1 million), indoor soccer (4.6 million) and beach volleyball (4.5 million).

"The degradation of the casual team sports participant cannot be ignored," said VJ Mayor, SFIA's director of Communications & Research. "Casual participation is the gateway to more core participants. We have already begun to see a decline in core participation among traditional team sports over the last five years, which is alarming. The drop could be influenced by several factors, including increased single sport specialization, overuse injury, athlete burnout, safety concerns and the marginalization of the recreation player. Fortunately, the industry is aware of the magnitude of the issue and is coalescing to address it with initiatives like PHIT America and a participation initiative borne out of the SFIA Industry Leaders Summit."

The report provides an in-depth analysis on both the casual and core team sports participant by looking at key demographic data such as age, gender and income. In addition to exploring casual and core participants, the report revisits childhood participation, fandom in team sports and churn rate, which was first seen in the 2010 report.

For more information, visit www.sfia.org.


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