Life was still relatively normal in late February and early March. Millions of kids prepared for their spring sports season. Sports participation continued to grow, from elementary through high school ages, as another sign of progress since the Great Recession of 2008 discarded many kids.
By no means was youth sports perfect in late winter. Far too many kids were still left behind due to money and competition, or not having a quality experience to entice them to stay. But sports were at least happening.
Then a global pandemic retired every child. Subsequent killings of Black people by police precipitated protests around the country - and calls for greater equity in society’s leading institutions.
Youth sports returned in starts and stops, depending on the community and the sport. Some teams rushed back in; others proceeded cautiously. No one quite knew the best approach in these unprecedented times, in part because of how fragmented the youth sports ecosystem is in the United States.
Now what? The Aspen Institute’s Project Play explores the state of youth sports in 2020 – past, present and future – during one of the most turbulent years this country has ever witnessed.
In 2019, USA Field Hockey received the prestigious Project Play Champion designation for work done in sport development, and specifically with the program Stick2Sports, an initiative in partnership with US Lacrosse. Along with other American Development Model (ADM) programming, USA Field Hockey’s continued efforts have not gone unnoticed as the recently released State of Play 2020 Report indicates growth trends within the sport.
Prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, real progress was being made to grow sports participation at the youngest levels. In 2019, nearly 61% of kids played team sports on at least a casual basis – the highest on record dating to 2012 and an 8% increase from 2018. It was reported that 620,000 more kids at least tried sports once in 2019 compared to a year earlier after many years with this figure staying relatively flat.
For children ages 6 to 12 who participated on a regular basis, the sport of field hockey saw a 19.6% increase between 2018 to 2019, the second highest just below softball (fast-pitch) (20.4%).
In 2019, many sports experienced gains among youth ages 13 to 17. Field hockey saw a 7.6% participation growth. Again, among the highest behind golf (8.2%), lacrosse (7.8%) and softball (fast-pitch) (12.1%).
Even before the pandemic, the youth sports ecosystem lost almost 3 million kids during the transition from elementary to middle school ages. Field hockey was on the positive end of the spectrum and gained participation by middle school reporting an increase of 61,000 individuals.
“USA Field Hockey is excited that our mission to grow the game of field hockey, and our investment in sport development initiatives, is working, enabling more kids to experience the fun and life benefits associated with participation in field hockey and other sports,” said Sally Goggin, USA Field Hockey’s National Development Director. “Project Play has been a tremendous leader and partner to USA Field Hockey, especially in the area of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Growing the game as a sport for all, sport for life requires strong partnerships with individuals and organizations who share our passion.”
“It also requires human and financial resources to provide safe, inclusive programs and sustainable leagues, with appropriate equipment and trained and certified coaches and educators. USA Field Hockey feels fortunate to have many leaders in the field hockey community who work tirelessly to promote and develop the sport. We have more programs and resources than ever before to support and fuel growth and look forward to continuing increased participation.”
If you are interested in sponsoring USA Field Hockey’s youth sport development initiatives and growing field hockey locally, regionally and nationally, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join the free 6th annual Aspen Institute Sports Project Play Summit, taking place virtual October 13 through 16, to help build a new platform for youth sports. Click here for more information or to register.