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Is youth football participation on the decline?

Updated on October 9, 2012

Is tackle football on the decline?

Youth football - is it on the rise or decline? Many parents are faced with the tough decision each year to either let their young kids play football or persuade them to play something else. Football in the south is a very popular sport and most kids are influenced starting at a very youth age.

In recent weeks, a number of communities from Massachusetts to Minnesota have reported lower registration rates for this season in their youth football leagues. This development has left many coaches speculating that strife over player safety in the National Football League (NFL) and increased concern over concussions in youth football has led to fearful parents and kids abstaining from enrollment.

While the effect of the present scrutiny of the number of concussions in the NFL cannot yet be measured, the results of studies that have shown growth for youth football over the last decade, like the one conducted by National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) in January 2012, have been modest: 4.7 percent overall between 2001 and 2011.

Aside from the slew of negative press, experts have cited other potential reasons for the current youth football participation trend: the meteoric rise of sports like lacrosse, which has experienced a 104.2 percent growth rate during the past 10 years, the resulting diversity in athletic sports and the decline in the number of youths taking part in any sport, which has dropped by 5.7 million since the turn of the millennium according to the NSGA.

The NSGA also reported some positive statistics in its survey: the number of children playing youth football between the ages of 7 and 11 increased by 44 percent since 2001. The decline occurs in the older age group of 12- to 17-year-olds, which ends up resulting in the smaller increase cited earlier.

In contrast, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) reported that football and the top traditionally "American" sports have remained steady in participation. Their 2011 study found that football is still the third most-played youth sport in the United States.

So it's popularity continues to push the American sport forward and many kids and youth football players are lining up to play. 7 on7 flag football and touch football are played primarily in the spring and tackle football is typically played in the fall. If your interested in playing football reach out to your neighborhood association or Pop Warner and they can assist.


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