Baseball By The Numbers: Understanding The Youth Baseball Landscape
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Baseball continues to be one of the most popular youth sports in North America. While baseball participation rates increased from 2018-2019, from 2019-2020 numbers dropped.
When looking specifically at data published by the Aspen Institute for kids ages 6-12 years-old, the number of kids playing baseball in 2019 was 14.4% and in 2020, 12.1%. These numbers show -15.2% difference.
Youth athletes ranging from 13-17 years-old playing baseball also dropped between 2019 to 2020. In 2019, the participation rate was 10.4% vs. 2020 at 8.7%.
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Before the pandemic, the increase in baseball participation was hard to miss. Between 2013 to 2018 the number of kids in the U.S. playing baseball and softball increased by almost 3 million, according to Sports Fitness & Industry Association. Those numbers during that time period saw sports like football and soccer decreasing.
During the pandemic, even though overall participation in baseball decreased, 16.1% of parents said their child tried baseball for the first time during the pandemic. This was via an organized team or just a simple game of catch in the backyard. Baseball was the second most tried sport behind basketball since the start of the pandemic.
During the any given week in 2021, kids ages 6-18 years-old played baseball mainly during free-play and competition situations. On average in September, youth athletes played free-play baseball for 4 hours during the week. They spent around 2.3 hours doing virtual training, 4.2 at practices, and 3.7 at games. The numbers changed in the spring, with athletes spending 4.5 hours a week participating in free-play, 3.3 doing virtual training, 4.5 practicing, and 4.5 at games.
The overall COVID-19 effect on the number of occasions playing baseball for kids ages 6 and older went from 479 billion (before the pandemic) to 433 billion in 2020, a -9.5% change.
When comparing baseball to other sports, individual and outdoor sports did the best during the 2019-2020 year. Twelve of the 17 sports analyzed by Project Play declined, while only basketball, bicycling, golf, tennis and track and field grew participants.
Once trends are published for the next year, we’ll be sure to check back with any increase or decrease in baseball participants. For the time being, be sure to tune in for the Little League World Series later this summer.