17+ Interesting Youth Sports Statistics to Know [2024]

Jeff Porter |
Table Of Contents

Youth sports is where many children take the first steps in establishing a lifelong love of movement, wellness and achievement. From physical fitness to social skills, the benefits of youth sports extend far beyond the playing field. 

Understanding the latest statistics offers valuable insights into the current state of youth sports engagement and highlights areas for further exploration and improvement. Let's embark on a journey to explore the trends and figures shaping youth sports participation today and uncover the implications for the future of our young athletes.

Youth sports statistics: participation rates


Over the past decade, youth sports participation has seen significant shifts, reflecting changes in societal attitudes, access to resources and evolving interests among young athletes. Let’s see how this reflects in the numbers and explore the trends and figures shaping youth sports participation today.

1. 70.8 million youth athletes participated in team sports in 2023. 

The latest Sports and Fitness Industry Association report, U.S. Trends in Team Sports notes that this marks the largest number of people playing team sports in the last decade and represents a 3.7 percent rise from previous years, restoring participation levels to those seen before the pandemic. 

2. More youth athletes are playing multiple sports.

The number of youth athletes playing multiple team sports rose 2.1% to 128.9 million in 2022 since the lows of the pandemic.  

3. Girls' participation in sports is on the rise. 

There has been a notable shift in sports participation trends, with girls' involvement on the rise: participation rates are at their highest point since 2013. While boys maintained a higher rate of regular sports participation at 40% compared to girls at 35%, this represents a significant departure from a decade ago when half of boys regularly participated in sports. 

4. Boys' participation dropped slightly. 

But, not by much. Between 2019 and 2022, boys experienced a one-point drop. 

Despite this, boys continue to dominate high school sports rosters by 1.2 million spots, largely attributed to the presence of large football teams, as indicated by the National Federation of State High School Associations

5. The states with the highest youth sports participation rates are Massachusetts and Minnesota.

While the national average for sports participation sits around 51%, Massachusetts and Minnesota smashed through that average and sit at 62.9 and 62.8 respectively.

Are their sports programs more accessible to a wider range of kids? Minnesota Hockey’s Louis Snee seems to think so. That, the ratio of public vs. privately-owned rinks and providing sports gear for hockey tournaments, games and training all helps!

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Youth sports statistics: benefits of youth sports 


Now let’s jump into the fascinating benefits of youth sports. While some of these stats are expected, some may surprise you.

6. Physically active children share in life’s success. 

Project Play’s State of Play 2023 Report shares that physically active children grow into adults with a better quality of life than peers who weren’t physically active in their youth. What’s more, active parents generally have active kids, continuing an intergenerational cycle of good health and wellness.

7. Participating in youth sports provides many mental and emotional health benefits 

Youth sports offer numerous mental and emotional health benefits, according to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition. Children who participate in youth sports experience:

  • Lower rates of anxiety and depression
  • Reduced stress levels
  • Higher self-esteem and confidence
  • Decreased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • Improved cognitive performance
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Greater enjoyment of physical activity
  • Improved psychological and emotional well-being for individuals with disabilities
  • Increased life satisfaction

8. Physically active children perform better academically.

Many studies show a correlation between the level of physical activity and academic performance. The results are generally the same: physically active children not only achieve satisfactory grades but often excel academically. 

This study goes so far as to dictate the best type of exercise to produce optimal results: low-intensity running.

9. Participation in youth sports correlates with better academic outcomes 

Contrary to the belief that sports detract from academic success, research indicates that participation in youth sports correlates with better academic outcomes

Research shows that athletes have lower dropout rates, higher GPAs and improved test scores compared to non-athletes. 

Physically active children tend to excel academically, with improved focus, memory and cognitive skills. Additionally, physical activity positively influences brain health and structure, enhancing learning and reasoning abilities.

10. Physically active children have a higher chance of achieving success as an adult.

A study conducted by researchers from The Ohio State University suggests that participation in organized sports during childhood can lead to the development of "grit." 

The lessons learned in sports, such as struggling to learn new skills, overcoming challenges and bouncing back from failure, contribute to the development of grit. This perseverance and resilience help them overcome challenges and achieve long-term goals in adulthood.

11. Raising physical activity levels to 63% among youth could save $23.8 billion in medical costs.

The Healthy People program, established and funded by the federal government, set the goal to increase youth sports participation to 63% by 2030. Researchers at the City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy conducted a computer simulation model, to predict the benefits of the goal.  

They projected that achieving this goal could result in $23.8 billion in direct medical cost savings and an additional average of $32.8 billion gained through increased worker productivity.  

12. Physically active youth are less likely to become obese.

According to the State of Childhood Obesity report, the prevalence of obesity among individuals aged 2-19 years has surged from 5% in 1978 to 18.5% in 2016. That equates to approximately 1 in 16 children and adolescents grappling with severe obesity. 

Physically active youth have lower obesity rates. Despite the persistence of the obesity epidemic, active children show reduced obesity levels compared to their sedentary counterparts. 

Afterschool physical activity programs could significantly reduce obesity rates by 1.8% among children aged 6 to 12. However, the pandemic has exacerbated the issue, with a concerning increase in obesity rates among children and teenagers.

13. Youth sports combat loneliness. 

Youth sports address the loneliness epidemic highlighted by the US Surgeon General in May 2023, particularly affecting those aged 15-24. 

Participating in sports teams fosters a supportive environment rich in social interaction and camaraderie, countering feelings of isolation. Beyond physical activity, sports offer a sense of community, uniting players, coaches and supporters through the games, team fundraising and other activities, in a cohesive bond that extends beyond the playing field.

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Youth sports statistics: other fun facts about sports trends


Read on to learn some fun stats and facts you might not know about youth sports! 

14. The global youth sports market rakes in over 37.5 billion annually.

While this is a huge figure, what’s more impressive is that the U.S. alone brings in around $20 billion.

Forecasts predict this number will grow to 69.4 billion globally by 2030.

15. Pickleball is the fastest-growing team sport across all ages. 

The wildly popular game, Pickleball, combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis. 

Invented in the mid-1960s on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, it quickly evolved from a backyard game into a competitive sport. Played on a modified court with paddles and a plastic ball, it's accessible to players of all ages and skill levels. 

With its low-impact nature, it's particularly popular among older adults, leading to a surge in court construction worldwide.

16. Basketball is the most popular team sport 

Basketball maintains its position as the most popular team sport in the United States, boasting the highest participation rates, according to recent findings from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA). 

SFIA's research reveals that a staggering 28.1 million Americans aged six and above actively participate in basketball, making it a widespread pastime across the nation. Notably, basketball stands out as the only team sport where participation rates for both boys and girls aged 6-12 are in double digits, reflecting its broad appeal across genders.

Basketball has sustained a growth trajectory since 2018. The enduring appeal of basketball speaks volumes about its cultural significance and widespread adoption as a beloved pastime among Americans of all ages and backgrounds.

17. Soccer increasing its core player numbers

Soccer (outdoor) is the only team sport that experienced an increase in core participation since 2019. Core participation refers to individuals who are deeply committed to playing team sports and participate in them frequently. 

This positive trend in soccer suggests ongoing interest and involvement among players, highlighting the need for a deeper commitment to sports participation. While basketball remains popular with a mix of casual and core players, soccer's growing core player base signals a potential shift in popularity over time.


Travel smarter with your youth sports team


As you navigate the dynamic world of youth sports, one thing remains clear: the significance of physical activity and community engagement cannot be overstated. From combating loneliness to fostering lifelong health habits, youth sports serve as catalysts for positive change in the lives of countless individuals. 

By harnessing the power of sports to promote inclusivity, resilience and personal growth, we can pave the way for a brighter future for generations to come.

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