Posted November 14, 2013

Report: Youth football participation drops by 9.5 percent

NFL
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talks with youth football players. (Tom E. Puskar/ AP Images for NFL Network)

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talks with youth football players. (Tom E. Puskar/ AP Images for NFL Network)

Pop Warner football, which is the United States’ largest football program for young people, saw an almost 10 percent drop in participation, reports ESPN.com’s Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada.

According to the report, Pop Warner football, which began in 1929, lost 23,612 players in 2012, a 9.5 percent drop from 2010. That is thought to be the largest two-year decline since the organization began keeping statistics.

Pop Warner officials say there are several factors in the decline, including the trend of athletes focusing on one sport. One doctor believes it is the concerns about head injuries that is the number one cause in the decline.

“Unless we deal with these truths, we’re not going to get past the dropping popularity of the sport and people dropping out of the sport,” said Dr. Julian Bailes, a former Pittsburgh Steelers neurosurgeon whose 10-year-old son, Clint, plays Pop Warner outside Chicago. “We need to get it right.”

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More from ESPN.com:

The statistics, which have not been previously disclosed, are consistent with declining participation rates reported in youth football across the country. USA Football, a national governing body partially funded by the NFL, said participation among players ages 6 to 14 fell from 3 million to 2.8 million in 2011, a 6.7 percent decline.

The downward trends in youth football participation coincide with a series of ominous reports about football and brain damage in the NFL. In 2005, the first of dozens of confirmed cases of former NFL players with neurodegenerative disease was reported.


10 comments
VenerinoGriva
VenerinoGriva

Fastest growing youth sport in America is rugby. It's safer and more fun. 

i9Sports
i9Sports

Interesting to see that the numbers for tackle football among youth have declined, but we wish the story had included data on the rise of flag football among young athletes. Flag football allows kids to learn the fundamentals of the game without exposing their young brains to the violent collisions you see in tackle football. At i9 Sports, our flag football participation has more than doubled across the country in the last five years. With medical experts recommending flag football for kids up to age 14, we believe we'll continue to see growth in flag football participation, ensuring our kids learn the values of teamwork, sportsmanship and healthy competition without the danger of permanent damage caused by a head injury.

VictorNewman
VictorNewman

lacrosse is a fringe sport. soccer is where kids are headed these days. 

funtasticus
funtasticus

You have a few factors in play - lacrosse is growing in popularity, summer sports are extending into fall deep with travel teams, parents are afraid of injury, and cost is a factor. Football is not a cheap sport for parents or leagues with rising insurance costs, equipment, uniforms, etc.  if I let me sons play it won't be until they are juniors in high school and by that time they will probably be too involved in other things to care about it too much.

thebigdawg3
thebigdawg3

Football is finished!  And thank goodness the NFL has become unwatchable with all the commercials, all the breaks in play, the crap officials, and the ticki-tac penalties!



T-rev
T-rev

Same thing happened to boxing.  After head injuries became known, young kids quit, highschools dropped boxing classes, and eventually the pro sport quit making headlines.

Jack's back
Jack's back

A fair number of this decline is due to the HUGE interest in youth lacrosse - which did not even EXIST 10 years ago - at least in the New England area.  Lacrosse has "lured" large numbers of youth players away from BOTH Pop Warner football AND Youth Soccer . . .

Plainview
Plainview

@VictorNewman while lacrosse is a fringe sport, it has grown in popularity quite a bit.  Soccer, however, always has had a bigger base across the country.  I'm from Maryland so rec. and club football, soccer, and lacrosse are all common.  However, MD is a lacrosse hotbed.  Doubt lacrosse is as embedded in the sports community in, say, New Mexico. 

Johnqazwsx
Johnqazwsx

@Jack's back Lacrosse and Football are played in different seasons.  While there is fall lacrosse it  is usually limited to the club level which try to schedule around the other sports.  Agreed that soccer pulls numbers as well as ice hockey which is growing in popularity in the form of youth leagues