Basketball By The Numbers: Understanding The Youth Basketball Landscape

It wasn’t so long ago that basketball rims were boarded up, public parks locked their doors, and COVID-19 kept kids and parents inside, away from sports and social activities.

Basketball was a sport ranked at the top of CDC’s list as a sport unsafe to play. From the sharing of equipment like one basketball, to the close proximity of athletes, to the indoor-outdoor factor, many basketball organizations had to close their doors to keep their players, staff, and everyone safe. Now as we look at how basketball stands participation wise across North America, it’s no surprise that the pandemic affected the numbers – but in a way that may surprise you.

According to the Aspen Institute’s Project Play, they collected data from children ages 6-12 years-old and in 2018, 14.1% of kids played basketball, in 2019, 14.0, and in 2020, 14.8%. In total, 4,114,000 kids played basketball in 2020. Now, the numbers may have increased because basketball although typically played in a gym can also be played almost anywhere. It doesn’t take much to play and kids can go out on their own and play without jeopardizing social distancing.

For older players, 13-17 years-old, basketball participation also increased from 2018-2020. In 2018, 16.2% played regularly, 2019 16.5% and in 2020, 16.9%.

According to a sample collected youth athletes who tried a sport for the first time since the start of the pandemic, basketball was ranked the highest with 20.9% of kids trying it for the first-time ever.

Basketball is a game that is played everywhere. Youth programs have long been on their own in following specific guidelines, however the NBA and USA Basketball have partnered to develop guidelines to promote a positive and healthy youth basketball experience. The goal here is to keep more kids playing basketball to avoid burnout, injury and disinterest in the game.

Currently, in North America the pathway for a youth basketball player is to begin, explore programs (recreational, travel, etc), learn through top coaches and mentors, participate in programs that both position you to excel but also perform to play at the highest level.

If you are wondering where in the world basketball is the most popular, the top four countries are the United States, the Philippines, Australia, and Canada.

National data actively tracking the safe return of youth sports activities

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