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What Drives Youth-Sports Participation? Survey Aims to Find Out

Guest post by Gina Cairney

In 2011, 68.1 million Americans—that's about a quarter of the population—ages 6 and older were considered to be "totally inactive," according to a report by the Physical Activity Council. While the rate of inactivity among children ages 6 to 12 has fallen slightly from 4.6 million in 2010 to 4.5 million in 2011, inactivity among adults ages 18 and older increased from 58.7 million to 60 million in those same years.

Childhood obesity is a major problem for the United States, and while most of the proposed solutions seem to be geared towards improving nutritional standards in school lunches, ACTIVE Network and the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association (SGMA) are taking a new approach: finding what inspires people to move.

In a preview of their upcoming new report, the "2012 Grassroots Sports Participation Study," ACTIVE Network and SGMA attempted to better understand what drives activity and sports participation. (The full report will be released in October.)

"Americans want to be more active, but have a hard time prioritizing activity," said Kristin Carroll, vice president of corporate consumer marketing at ACTIVE Network in a statement. "With this study, we aim to provide a roadmap to demonstrate how parents, activity organizers and sporting goods manufacturers can take action to help create a more active America."

The two organizations collected data in February from children, teens, and adults through a 20-minute web-based survey. A total of 1,317 respondents completed the surveys.

The survey had three sections, asking participants to identify which sports their child participated in, followed by questions about how serious they were about each activity, how long they've participated, and to identify what their favorite activity was. Respondents were also asked attitudinal questions about their participation in sports, and their child's brand-use in sports participation.

Obesity is also quite costly, with 2008 costs estimated at $147 billion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and if Americans continue down the path of total inactivity, those costs will only get higher.

But as more adults become increasingly concerned about their kids' lack of exercise, perhaps America will become less of a potato-couch nation, and more of a go-go nation as youth participation in sports and physical activities continue into adulthood. But as the ACTIVE Network and SGMA report shows, fun is a major key factor in lifelong commitment to physical activity.

Ninety-two percent of youth were motivated to start sports because they enjoy these activities, with 88 percent of teens saying the same thing, according to the report, but as we move into adulthood, the fun factor morphs into goal-oriented objectives—not so fun.

If we want more youth and teens to get into sports and physical activities, and maintain that interest into adulthood, adults need to be role models.

"As the report shows, we cannot underestimate the value of parental influence and the example they provide in getting our children and teens to be active and stay active," Tom Cove, president and CEO of SGMA said in the press release.

Educators, how will you inspire a more active lifestyle in your youngins?

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