By Ken Reed

The pandemic has shut down a good portion of youth sports activities across the country. This has caused a lot of frustration for kids, parents, coaches and youth sports organizations.

Obviously, the goal is to keep children, and the adults they live with, as safe as possible during the pandemic. However, the pause in youth sports activities is negatively impacting our young people in many ways.

There has been nearly a 50 per cent drop in physical activity among U.S. children from the start of the pandemic, according to a survey done in September by the Aspen Institute. That spike in physical inactivity will undoubtedly have negative health implications.

In addition, many kids are struggling mentally and emotionally without sports. Suverys have shown that feelings of anxiety and depression have spiked during the pandemic among young athletes.

What’s also concerning is that young people are finding things other than sports to spend their time on during the shutdown. Their interest in playing sports has dropped. Nearly three out of 10 children who played a sport before the pandemic are no longer interested in participating, according to the Aspen Institute study.

The youth sports industry needed to start working together in a more coordinated way before the pandemic to increase participation, safety, etc. Given the statistics noted above, an integrated approach is even more important today.

“To have any chance for success, the youth sports industry must utilize and rely on those lifelong traits we learned from playing sports,” writes Brian Litvack, the CEO and co-founder of LeagueApps, a youth sports management platform, in a recent Sportico article. “We need to all work together as a team.”

Ah yes, teamwork. Coordination has never been an American strength in the world of sports (off the field that is), from the pro level down to the youth level. Countries like Canada and Australia have done a much better job integrating youth sports into the country’s overall sports policy initiatives.

Litvack lists several recommendations to make the youth sports industry more cohesive coming out of the pandemic, including:

Government participation — “Federal, state and local governments recognized the importance of youth sports during the pandemic,” writes Litvack.

“We now need to leverage that awareness to solicit government support and structured programs to support youth sports communities. We need to educate government agencies on their roles in youth sports.”

As an example, PLAY Sports Coalition, is a youth sports policy advocacy organization pushing for policies that advance the youth sports field.

More involvement from professional sports leagues and clubs — “The pros have a vested interest in developing the next generation of players and fans,” writes Litvack.

“We need these organizations to continue their efforts to invest in youth sport (and the future of all sports). Professional sports can help drive new ways to organize the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ and support rec programs—an area of youth sports that has struggled to evolve.”

You can read more about Litvack’s ideas for unifying the youth sports world here.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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