Report: Team Sports Participation Grows In 2021, But Falls Short Of 2019 | Sports Destination Management

Report: Team Sports Participation Grows In 2021, But Falls Short Of 2019

Mar 06, 2023

New data from the SFIA U.S. Trends In Team Sports Report for 2022 suggests that while participation numbers are increasing, they are not back to pre-pandemic levels.

SFIA data shows that the number of team sports participants increased from 67 million in 2020 to 68.3 million in 2021, up 1.8 percent, but participation fell short of the 70.8 million participants in 2019.

SFIA said there are positive signs for the future of team sports, as the number of participants in the 6-to-12 age group increased from 17.0 million to 17.6 million year-over-year.

“The number of 6-to-12-year old’s playing sports not only increased in 2021, but it is the highest we have seen in the last five years,” said Tom Cove, president and CEO, SFIA. “After free play and recess, team sports are often the first regular physical activity in which children participate, and the experience can be the foundational connection to a lifetime of sports and fitness participation.”

As has been the case for many years, SFIA data shows that basketball continues to be the most-played team sport in the U.S., with 27.1 million participants in 2021. Basketball proved throughout the pandemic to have maintained a high participation rate, as it is easy to play solo, in social formats, in small-sided games, and has a low cost of entry. However, soccer overtook basketball as the top sport for 6-year-olds in 2021. With the recent energy and excitement around men’s and women’s World Cup soccer, SFIA forecasts soccer participation will continue to grow.

Among 23 team sports, the most significant year-over-year changes in participation rate on a percentage basis belonged to fast-pitch softball (+15.3 percent), gymnastics (+10.9 percent), court volleyball (+8.1 percent), and swimming on a team (+8.0 percent). The summer Olympics likely aided participation in these activities.

Five team sports, including flag football, grass volleyball, fast-pitch softball, court volleyball, and basketball, increased core participation over a five-year average for 6-to-17-year-olds. Eleven sports increased total participation over a five-year average for the same age range.

“While people were back participating in sports, it is important to remember that many spring season team sports were not at full strength in early 2021 due to the Omicron COVID variant,” said Cove. “While conclusive evidence remains to be drawn, early indications suggest 2022 participation may reach, if not surpass, 2019 numbers as organized spring sports activities fully returned for the first time in two years.”

The SFIA 2022 U.S. Trends in Team Sports Report examines participation and market trends from 2021 in team sports and features in-depth data analysis of age group participation and specific takeaways. This year’s report also breaks down data on team sports coaches, training and features a new section on young adult team sports participation, covering ages 18 to 24.

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