Study: Youth football participation up in '13

Study: Youth football participation up in '13

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 7:59 p.m. ET

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- A new report being released Friday found that the number of football players 8 or younger increased by 10.2 percent from 2012 to 2013 -- a stark contrast to recent trends showing overall athletic participation is waning.

The study was conducted by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association for Indianapolis-based USA Football, an umbrella group for youth sports.

SFIA president Tom Cove warned that inactivity among America's children could lead to more significant problems later in life.

"Physical inactivity is a pandemic with terrible consequences for American children," said Cove, who also serves on USA Football's board of directors. "Research shows that a child who is not active before age 10 is much more likely to remain inactive throughout his or her life. It is important to note that this is not exclusive to any one sport."


The five-year trends for all the sports measured by the study continue to show declines.

From 2008-12, soccer participation dropped by 7.1 percent, baseball participation fell by 7.2 percent and basketball participation declined by 8.3 percent. Football showed the smallest decline, 5.4 percent, over the same span.

High school football, meanwhile, continues to be the only boys sport to attract more than 1 million players -- a number it has hit for 15 consecutive years, the study found.

The report also found more than 4.5 million children age 14 and younger played organized tackle and flag youth football last year, including 2.58 million children ages 6 to 14 who played organized tackle football. The number of football players increased in two age groups -- those 8 and younger and those ages 13 and 14.

USA Football also noted that 64 percent of parents of flag football players, approximately 1.5 million, expect their child to play tackle football in youth leagues.