As the popularity of sports programs – particularly travel programs – continues to spiral upward, it’s no surprise that the resultant cost is also increasing. This, in turn, puts kids from lower socio-economic backgrounds at a disadvantage.
According to information by Sports Facilities Advisory (SFA), lower-income athletes are finding it harder to find a way to play at well-maintained and affordable venues since less funding is going into public sports facilities.
According to SFA, “Schools classified as “low socio-economic” show only 24.6% of eighth graders playing sports. Compare that to the 36.1% of students the same age in “high socio-economic” schools who play – there is a real disparity. (1)”
Limitations in safe transportation to facilities and less funding negatively impact youth access to sports programs, according to The Aspen Summit’s Project Play, a leader in efforts to address childhood physical inactivity. The Summit identified that children tend to give up on sports by age 9 and physical activity rates drop sharply. (1)
Yet there are expanding tournament venues for expensive and elite travel teams, dividing the landscape of sports into the haves and have-nots. The question, then, becomes whether How many families have the means to spend up to 50 weekends a year in hotels for youth sports events?
SFA founder and CEO Dev Pathik says there has actually been an 8% decrease in youth sports participation in the past 24 months, and even NIKE is concerned – in 2012, NIKE identified five built environment settings to promote play in the Designed to Move Report.
Pathik goes on to say that youth sports is booming on the private side as sports facilities are being erected for families with means. His solution to fund public youth sports to increase broader access has been successful:
A partnership between public and private entities
New venues have pre-tax incentives
The public entity is responsible for renting the land
The private side builds the facility and keeps it running
Whether these proposals will work is an answer that only time can provide.
Facts: Sports Activity and Children. (2013, January 1). Retrieved December 9, 2014, from http://www.aspenprojectplay.org/the-facts