By Ken Reed

I recently wrote about data showing sports participation for boys and young children (6-12) was declining. Girls participation was up slightly but still trailed boys’. Moreover, only two states, Minnesota and Massachusetts, are currently meeting the government’s goal of 63% youth sports participation by 2030. Furthermore, of those children participating in organized youth sports, more than 70% drop out by age 13.

When these numbers are combined with the growing mental health crisis among young people in this country, the picture is disturbing. Our young people may be more physically, mentally and emotionally unfit than at any other time in our country’s history.

This is truly unfortunate because the teen years are a time when sports participation can have its greatest benefits. Multiple studies show that youngsters who participate in sports are less likely to smoke, consume illegal drugs and alcohol, miss classes, have behavioral issues, drop out of school, suffer from anxiety and depression, and get pregnant. In addition, for those involved in sports, self-esteem tends to rise, grades improve and the ability to solve problems, handle adversity, and be creative improves.

Collectively, we need to focus on getting our young people moving more through quality physical education programs, sports and other physical activities. Young people who are active through high school are more active than their less-active school peers through their adult years. Active children tend to turn into active adults. And active adults have fewere medical problems, an important consideration given the rising healthcare costs in this country.

Unfortunately, the reality today is that PE classes are being cut, intramural sports programs — that any student can participate in regardless of athletic ability — have been nearly eliminated, and recess time is being shortened.

All of this is happening at a time when we need these programs more than ever. If current trends hold, diabetes is expected to afflict a third of the population by 2050, and obesity, a prime cause of diabetes, is expected to afflict half the population by 2030.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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