The paradoxical success of the $17B Kids Sports Industrial Complex

The youth sports industry has doubled in a decade to more than $17B, but the number of kids playing sports has declined.


August 7, 2019

As youth sports businesses continue to rake in more cashola, the number of young kids actually playing sports has decreased significantly, reveals a survey reviewed by Axios.

The youth sports market has doubled in the last decade…

Recently hitting a staggering $17B in the US. 

So, since that money doesn’t come from Little League registration fees (Little League participation is actually down 20% from its peak around 2000), where does it come from?

Mostly, from private youth sports programs including pay-to-play extracurricular club teams and expensive summertime tournaments.

… But fewer kids actually play youth sports

The number of 6- to 12-year-olds regularly playing team sports fell from 45% in 2008 to just 38% today. Why? 

The same reason the market’s rakin’ in so much money: Team sports are becoming so expensive that many families are being priced out before their kids ever even step up to the plate. 

Some families pay north of $20k for a year’s worth of youth sports, and participation rates diverge across socioeconomic lines: According to a Time report, more than 2x as many kids whose families earn $100k+ play sports as kids whose families earn less than $25k (41% vs. 19%).

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