Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

November 2020

Study Highlights Parks & Rec's Role in Youth Sports

A new report from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) shows that parks and recreation professionals and the agencies they work for are essential providers of youth sports in communities across the country. The five most popular youth sports affiliated with parks and recreation are basketball, baseball/softball, soccer, football (including flag and peewee) and volleyball. Other popular youth sports include tennis, swimming and diving, track and field, gymnastics and cheerleading.

The "Youth Sports at Park and Recreation Agencies" report highlights the critical role park and recreation professionals and their agencies play in ensuring every child in every community has access to team and individual sports. For example, 86% of park and recreation professionals agree they and their peers can contribute to a fair and just future for youth sports by identifying inequities in access to organized sports offerings. This includes addressing the many disparities that exist as they relate to the proximity to sports fields and courts, and the ability to afford registration fees and the additional costs of participating in sports.

While the majority (92%) of park and recreation agencies charge registration fees for their youth sports offerings, most (65%) also offer reduced or discounted fees for lower-income residents. In addition, five out of six park and recreation agencies work with partners like private sports associations, school systems and no profits too booster their ability to offer robust opportunities in sports.

The pandemic is obviously having an impact, with 90% of park and recreation agencies reporting that the pandemic is negatively affecting their youth sports programming, via budget cuts, limits on participants and attendees, and the need to train staff and volunteers on safe distancing practices. Parks and recreation also is facing long-term challenges that affect the ability to ensure equitable access to youth sports activities, including:

  • Insufficient funding.
  • Competing with better-funded private organizations.
  • Difficulty recruiting volunteer coaches.
  • Competition with travel sports leagues.
  • Insufficient sports fields and courts.

"Park and recreation professionals are in a unique position to promote increased access to sports, critical to a child's physical and cognitive development," said Kevin Roth, NRPA's vice president of research, evaluation and technology. "Unfortunately, the future of youth sports in our country is uncertain, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. Parks and recreation remains committed to providing low-cost youth sports programs to everyone."

Learn more about the report and NRPA's efforts to improve access to youth sports activities by visiting

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