Last week, US Lacrosse served as one of over 100 co-signers on a letter sent from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) to President Barack Obama, urging him to include comments in his 2014 State of the Union speech to promote the importance of physical activity as a way to create healthy lifestyles.
The timeliness of that request was accentuated further by an article that was published today in the online version of The Wall Street Journal, chronicling the sharp declines in youth sports participation.
The article notes that “combined participation in the four most-popular U.S. team sports—basketball, soccer, baseball and football—fell among boys and girls aged 6 through 17 by roughly 4% from 2008 to 2012.” At this point, the reasons for this decline are not clear. The article says that “experts cite everything from increasing costs to excessive pressure on kids in youth sports to cuts in school physical-education programs.”
Looking for some good news? In contrast to the participation drops in the four sports noted above, lacrosse is headed in the opposite direction. Citing data provided by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), the article notes that lacrosse participation was up 158% between 2008 and 2012.
Michael Bergeron, Executive Director of the National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute, adds, "We have to be aware of single sport specialization, overuse, overworking kids searching for the elite athletes; all of these things are causing kids to leave youth sport and not return."
Beyond just business implications (e.g., reduced sales of sporting goods equipment), the greater concern related to this decline in participation rates, of course, is the corresponding decline in youth physical fitness levels. As the article notes, “organized sports have long been regarded as a valuable defense against increasing rates of disease-inducing inactivity among America's youth.”
William W. Dexter, a physician who serves as president of the American College of Sports Medicine, is quoted as saying, "It is much more likely that someone who is active in their childhood is going to remain active into their adulthood."
To read more about the growth of lacrosse, you can access the most recent US Lacrosse Participation Survey.
Bruce Griffin is the director of heath and sport safety at US Lacrosse.
US Lacrosse is committed to a safe and positive playing experience for all athletes. Read up on our safety initiatives, including concussion awareness, injury prevention and nutrition, and help make your lacrosse community a safer one.