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[NEW DATA] Building Communities Through Sports During COVID-19

November 24, 2020

Sonia Segal-Smith

A look at how sports are shaping communities during COVID-19

Months into the COVID-19 pandemic and our communities are nowhere near being back to normal. A large proportion of Americans are still working remotely, students are learning from their living rooms, extracurricular activities, including sports are limited and neighborhood and town events are few and far between. The glue that once held communities together -- schools, festivals and events, parties and social gatherings, sports -- have all been impacted by the pandemic and have shifted the way we look at and feel about our communities. In order to better understand how Americans feel about their communities and the role organized sports play in building communities, we recently surveyed 650 Americans about how their communities have evolved since the beginning of the pandemic and the role sports plays in local communities.

 

Community is Key

Sense of community is key and a driving force behind why people choose to live where they do. In fact, 94% of our respondents said that the surrounding community was a top consideration for them in deciding where to purchase a home. For our respondents, strong communities are rooted in inclusivity and built on a sense of belonging to all members. What’s more, is when asked about what made their experiences within their communities so enjoyable, our respondents placed an emphasis on the social opportunities for their children -- the opportunity for their kids to play safely and form friendships were cited as top strengths of their communities.

Prior to the pandemic, our respondents were happy with their communities -- 46% loved their neighborhoods and 78% were in agreement that they lived in a tight knit community. They spent time contributing to their communities (75%), attending community events (73%), neighborhood gatherings (68%) and 82% were in agreement that it was easy to meet neighbors and other community members. But the pandemic and resulting quarantine has weakened community ties -- 57% said their overall sense of community has dropped, 35% admit to not actively contributing to their community and respondents feel more than 9 times less connected to their communities than they did prior to COVID-19.

 

The Role of Sports in Communities

It’s no secret that sports bring communities together -- Whether participating in sports personally, cheering on a town rec league or rooting for a collegiate or professional team, camaraderie is at the core of engaging in sports. And for many parents, sports are the main way their children engage with their communities, socialize and build friendships. Here's what we learned about how COVID-19 has affected sports, and therefore feelings of community involvement.

  • 76% of our respondents reported their children being involved in community sports prior to the pandemic.
  • Of the families said that they have resumed sports participation (51%), 98% are in agreement that it has been a welcome change of pace.
  • Those who have returned to regularly participating in sports reported decreased isolation with 89% saying that their sense of community has increased since returning to sports.
  • 87% feel that restarting sports has helped boost their connection to people in their community.
  • In addition to decreased feelings of isolation, respondents also reported being much happier since reengaging in sports (84%).
  • Respondents were in agreement that their communities are happier (94%) and healthier (88%) when members are collectively active.

 

Fostering a School Community Amidst a Pandemic


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