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State of Team Sports in America

Date: 9/22/11

3 Out of Every 4 Teenagers in the U.S. Are Playing at Least 1 Team Sport

SILVER SPRING, MD – September 22, 2011 – The growth in youth team sports since 2009 is now being fueled by America’s 13 and 14 year olds, the peak ages of sports participation for children.  Nearly 70% of children (age 6-17) in the U.S. are playing team sports and three out of four teenagers are now playing at least one team sport.  Those are just a few of the key findings of the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association’s (SGMA) annual participation study on team sports -- U. S. Trends in Team Sports (2011 edition).

“The U.S. is truly a team sports-driven society,” said SGMA President Tom Cove. “While children represent the foundation and the roots of the team sports experience in the U.S., millions of Americans are also connected to team sports in a variety of ways – as athletes, coaches, parents, administrators, sponsors, and fans.”

According to the SGMA, five team sports have had strong gains in participation since 2009.  They are beach volleyball (up 12.3%), gymnastics (19.7%), field hockey (up 21.8%), lacrosse (up 37.7%), and rugby (50.7%).  Three more traditional mainstream team sports experienced single-digit growth in overall participation:  baseball (up 5.2%), basketball (up 9.6%), outdoor soccer (2.8%), and tackle football (up 1.6%).  In 2010, sports participation among 13 year olds and 14 year olds increased 22% and 14%, respectively, versus 2009.

“Team sports bring us together as young children, teaching us to socialize, solve problems, resolve disputes, experience the benefits of hard work, understand different personalities and gain self-confidence and direction,” said Neil Schwartz, director of business development for SGMA Research.  “And the roots of a positive team sports experience are an impactful PE class in school.”


This edition of U.S. Trends in Team Sports features Q & A interviews with six individuals who play a prominent role in team sports in the U.S.  They are Allen Krebs, manager, Kratz Sporting Goods, Clarksville, IN; U.S. Representative Mike McIntyre (D-NC); Todd Miller, founder, flyBurst, Washington, DC; Wayne Ryan, athletic director, Summers County High School, Hinton, West Virginia; and Steve Viarengo, general manager – team sports, Active Network.

“Each of the pillars of youth sports – Fitness, Access, Nutrition, and Safety – is vital to raising a healthy nation,” said Congressman McIntyre, a member of the Congressional Caucus on Youth Sports.  “We’ve got to motivate our kids to stay active and eat right. Fitness and nutrition can prevent a range of chronic disease, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke. Ensuring access to sport and fitness opportunities is vital to connecting our nation’s youth with the vast benefits that come from participating in sports.”

“While driving my kids around to find team sports in the Washington, D.C. area, I was struck by what a difficult process it was. Combining my passions for sports and technology, I launched flyBurst.com to aggregate all of the information on local sports and put it in one place,” said Miller.  “Now, sports providers, both non-profit and for-profit, can easily communicate their offerings, previously promoted by word of mouth. Parents and kids can search for activities by location, day of the week, skill level and time.”

“The good news is, despite the tough economy, we have not cutback or eliminated any sports programs,” said Ryan.  “In this small town, our teams are a source of pride, so the businesses in community are very good to us.”

“As for youth sports, I see a number of trends, including a tendency towards more competition and specialization at younger ages,” said Viarengo.  “The day of the three-sport athlete seems to have passed; kids get dialed into their sport much earlier. In terms of competition, soccer, for example, used to be more recreational. Now, kids play not just the team across town, but on a regional level; and not just in the fall, but in spring and summer.”


Listed below are some newsworthy excerpts from this edition of U.S. Trends in Team Sports:

The Youngsters:  Gymnastics has the highest percentage of 6-12 year-olds, as 48% of all gymnasts are in that age group.
Teens at Play:   Track & field has the highest percentage of 13-17 year-olds, as 44% of all track & field athletes are in that age group.

The College Scene:  Ultimate frisbee has the highest percentage of 18-24 year-olds, as 31% of all ultimate frisbee participants are in that age group.

Sedentary Statistics:  The time spent on computers by 8-18 year olds tripled from 1999 to 2009……and 42% of U.S. households own a game console.

Benefits of Activity:  Team sports participants were predictably more active and involved in other sports and activities as children than non-team sports participants.

Leaders in Sales:  The combined category of baseball/softball leads in overall team sports equipment sales – at $488 million (at wholesale) in 2010…….football is number one for wholesale sales of team uniforms ($358 million)……soccer is number one for wholesale sales of team footwear ($278 million).


1.) There’s a special report entitled Major Spectator Sport Fandom 2010.  This section lists what percentage of sports participants in all sports are specifically interested in the MLB, MLS, NBA, NHL, and NFL.  It’s worth noting that ice hockey players are as interested in the NFL as football players are.  And, roller hockey players are big fans of pro basketball, pro football, pro basketball, pro soccer, and pro ice hockey.

2.) ‘The Churn Rate’ and ‘Leaky Bucket’ Syndrome.  Every year, there are people who are new to an activity or who are returning to a sport (‘Newcomers’) and there are those who stop participating in that sport (‘The Churn Rate’).  This process is known as the ‘Leaky Bucket’ Syndrome. 

3.) Manufacturers’ sales of team sports gear are featured in U.S. Trends in Team Sports.  Specifically, there are listings of manufacturers’ sales (at wholesale) of sports equipment for baseball/softball; basketball; ice hockey; soccer; and volleyball (2004-2010); and lacrosse and football (2006-2010)…….manufacturers’ sales (at wholesale) for team uniforms for baseball, basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, and ‘other’ team sports (2007-2010)……and manufacturers’ sales (at wholesale) for team footwear for baseball, football, soccer and volleyball (2007-2010).

The team sports featured in U.S. Trends in Team Sports (2011 edition) include baseball, basketball, cheerleading, field hockey, football (flag), football (tackle), football (touch), gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, paintball, roller hockey, rugby, soccer (indoor), soccer (outdoor), softball (fast pitch), softball (slow pitch), track & field, volleyball (beach), volleyball (court), volleyball (grass), and wrestling.

On October 11th at 2:00 pm (Eastern), SGMA will present a webinar which will take an in-depth look into the world of team sports.  The webinar will include a roundtable discussion from industry experts and it will look at the stories inside this year’s U.S. Trends in Team Sports study.  This research webinar will be free to all manufacturers who are either SGMA  or AFIRM members.  Non-members can join the webinar for $49.00.  For further details on the webinar, click here.

To request a copy of U.S. Trends in Team Sports (2011 edition), access www.SGMA.com.  This report is available free-of-charge to full members of SGMA and the editorial media.

The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), the #1 source for sport and fitness research, is the leading global trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports products industry.  SGMA helps lead the sports and fitness industries by fostering participation through research, thought leadership, product promotion, and public policy.  More information about SGMA membership, SGMA Research, and SGMA's National Health Through Fitness Day can be found at www.SGMA.com.

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