Jul 18, 2019
To better understand sports participation rates for middle and high school–aged youths, the funding landscape, barriers and enablers to youth sports participation, and perceptions of the benefits and challenges of youth sports, RAND researchers launched three large-scale surveys of parents, school administrators, and community sports program leaders. A separate appendix provides detailed descriptions of survey and analysis methods, additional survey results, and survey protocols.
Perceived and actual barriers for middle and high school youths who may be interested in playing sports include financial costs and family time commitments, such as volunteering and providing transportation. Lower-income families in the sample were more likely to name financial costs as a reason for not participating than were middle- and higher-income families. Schools and community-based organizations may need to examine how costs — both time based and financial — currently burdening families can be reduced or supplemented with outside sources. Schools, community sports programs, policymakers, and funders can work to lower fees, particularly for low-income students. Providing equipment and transportation and minimizing parent time commitments may have the greatest effect on increasing sports participation among youths from lower-income families.