Brief - The Hustle

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

Written by Conor Grant | Jun 30, 2020 10:40:43 AM

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%).