Tackle football is one of 12 sports have seen a decline in participation rates among youth and high school kids since 2011. However, especially in the case of younger kids, the struggling participation rate is buried far below other sports.
Ralph D. Russo, a college football writer for the Associated Press, wrote an enlightening article on the changing culture of youth football and, in some cases, a completely different style of game. In the article, he discusses participation rates for kids in 13 sports.
At minus-19.2 percent, football has the second-highest declining rate among all sports for ages 6-17 between 2011-2016. Track and field is minus-23.6. Just behind football is softball (minus-17.9) and soccer (minus-15.1).
Among ages 13-17, football falls to the fourth-highest (minus-25.6 percent), well behind field hockey (minus-51.7) and volleyball (minus-30.9). And for the very young kids, ages 6-12, it's nowhere near the top, ranking eighth (minus-6.4), more than 16 percentage points behind soccer (minus-22.6).
"I don’t want [my son] to play [football] early," former NFL defensive tackle Spice Adams told HERO Sports earlier this month. When he gets to high school, it’s going to be his decision and I know he’s going to want to play. If it was up to me, I would have him play golf.
"I’m 37 years old and my body feels like I’m 60. I don’t want him to feel like that. I want him to get up and start his day. I think golf isn’t as hard on your body as running into another 350-pound man."
While the numbers suggest the preference of Adams and other parents might be having an impact on youth and high school football participation numbers, there is another discussion about the cause behind declining rates of other sports.
Here's a full list, courtesy of Russo:
Youth sports participation numbers referenced in my story. Provided by Aspen Institute. Research by Sports &Fitness industry Association pic.twitter.com/fkwO3G0hUF
— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) October 15, 2017