By Ken Reed
Research reveals that poor children and adolescents are participating significantly less in sports and fitness activities than those from more affluent families.
A CDC study found 70% of children from families with incomes above $105,000 participated in sports in 2020 vs. only 31% for families below the poverty line. A Seattle-based study found middle schoolers from more affluent families were three times more likely to meet physical exercise guidelines than less affluent students.
“What’s happened as sports has become more privatized is that it has become the haves and have-nots,” said Jon Solomon, editorial director for the Aspen Institute Sports and Society Program.
The Aspen program has found that lower income children have become less physically active over the past decade while for kids from families with incomes above $100,000 participation has actually risen slightly.
Part of the problem is the decline in physical education classes in schools over the past decade-plus.
“Particularly for low-income kids, if they don’t have access to sports within the school setting, where are they going to get their physical activity?” Mr. Solomon said. “The answer is nowhere.”
A recent report from the Physical Activity Alliance gave schools a nationwide grade of D- for physical fitness.
Another troubling trend is that junior high schools and middle schools across the country are dropping organized sports programs from their offerings. Some high schools are dropping freshman and junior varsity programs.
The big problem is private sports programs aren’t accessible to many poor families. It’s not just the high cost of sports participation in club sports leagues but also the cost to travel to competitions, purchase equipment and the time required to take kids to club sports activities.
Aspen Institute research has found that families spend on average $1,188 per year per child for soccer, $1,002 for basketball, $714 for baseball and $581 for tackle football.
The physical activity gap continues to grow and less affluent young people continue to suffer as a result — physically, mentally and emotionally.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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More Episodes on Apple Podcasts; Spotify; Google Podcasts; PocketCasts; & Anchor
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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