Boosting Participation in Youth Sports [+ INFOGRAPHIC]

January 23, 2021


As adults, one of the things we love about youth sports is the many ways participation benefits kids later in life. Knowing that, we want to do everything we can to encourage all kids to find a sport they love and then get out there and play. So what are the best ways to do that in 2021?

We found the latest survey data to illustrate what kids and parents say is most effective when it comes to boosting youth sports participation. It contains some solid reminders and also some surprises.

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5 Tips on boosting participation in youth sports

#1: Offer a Wider Range of Sports

With millions of youth involved in team sports -- especially well-known options such as football, baseball, softball, basketball, and soccer – it’s easy to forget there are lots of individual sports to kids can play competitively or just for fun. And, get this. When asked which sports most appealed to them for getting great exercise, kids listed:

  • Swimming
  • Bicycling
  • Running
  • Basketball
  • Camping


Camping? We just had to check that out. We learned that, while camping with the kids appeals to parents for the quality family time and valuable lessons that can be learned, we’re pretty sure the youngsters are more jazzed by:

  • Seeing critters up close in their natural habitat
  • Swimming in rivers or the ocean instead of pools
  • Developing basic survival skills
  • Discovering what quiet sounds like


#2: Emphasize Fun instead of Winning

We’ve all heard the phrase, “winning isn’t everything,” and it turns out kids agree. Nine out of 10 kids say having fun is their #1 reason to play sports. And just what does “fun” mean to them? Things like:

  • Trying your best
  • Getting playing time
  • Getting along with teammates


But, Mom and Dad (and coach), here’s something that may shock you. On the list of 81 potential fun factors, kids ranked:

  • Winning as #40
  • Playing in tournaments as #58
  • Traveling to new places to play as #71


Food for thought, that.


#3: Reduce the Chance of Injury

No surprise, almost 90% of parents said they’re concerned about their kid getting injured playing sports. They have good reason – more than 2.5 million young people under 19 suffer sports and recreation injuries each year. And now, thanks to COVID, parents have to be concerned about health safety as well as physical safety.


But there are lots of ways to ensure a safe environment for young athletes, including:

  • Promoting good overall health. Eating right and getting enough sleep ensure kids are in good condition to play.
  • Promoting a positive environment. In order to keep fun #1, young players and parents in the stands all have to keep their cool even if things don’t go their way.
  • Ensuring kids are properly outfitted. Protective gear is a must, and that includes a face mask.


#4: Encourage Young Women to Join In

The number of girls playing sports has risen steadily over the past 20 years, but the percentage still lags boys’ participation. Girls need exercise, too, not to mention all the other benefits of play.  

“Research confirms that sports (whether a girl is naturally athletic or not) is one of the most powerful activities that girls and young women can participate in to develop leadership,” says Susan Madsen. She cites a long, long list of leadership benefits available to girls and young women who participate compared to those who do not.


#5: Spirit Wear!

Perhaps the greatest benefit of team sports participation for kids (and adults, too) is the undeniable sense of belonging. And there’s no better way to reinforce that feeling than with spirit wear. But spirit wear does a whole lot more.


Custom decorated apparel underscores the fun side of sports. It lets young athletes show their individual side by choosing which apparel styles and colors they want and even personalizing it. It lets boys be boys and girls be girls. And it lets parents be cheerleaders, in the bleachers and around town.


With an online SquadLocker store, your organization can offer an amazing array of fun-boosting spirit wear, along with a full menu of custom-decorated uniforms, practice wear, and other essential gear. It’s easy to set up, and we’re here to coach you every step of the way.

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