Survey: Future of Many Youth Sports Programs in Doubt

Andy Berg Headshot

Youth athletics programs are struggling to stay afloat as they attempt to manage finances during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A recent survey of 290 youth sports organizers from across the United States that was conducted by youth sports sponsorship platform LeagueSide and reported on by Morning Consult, found that 46 percent of programs are in danger of permanently shuttering due to the impact of COVID-19. 

Fully 38 percent of organizations said they have, at most, three months of runway remaining before they go under. Meanwhile, 54 percent of youth sports parents who responded to a Morning Consult poll are concerned that a program their children are involved with will fold.

The Christian Athletic Association, a Maryland-based non-profit that offers soccer and volleyball leagues, said its top priority is keeping its only full-time employee on staff.

“We run on a very tight budget and each sport registration pays for the prior month’s expenses,” Art Warshaw, president of the CCA, told Morning Consult. “If this goes on for more than a few months, we face the high possibility of losing our only full-time employee, and he is the glue that holds our organization together.”

Regardless of whether youth sports programs stay afloat, parents are still leery about sending their kids back to athletics. About a quarter of parents surveyed said they won’t feel comfortable with their kids participating in youth sports until 2021.

The majority of parents surveyed said they would need COVID-19 cases in their area to decrease before they would send their kids back to sports. About 75 percent of parents said that it was “important” that a COVID-19 vaccine be made available before their kids return to organized sports, while 50 percent said a vaccine is “very important.” In addition, 34 percent of youth sports parents said they are less likely to allow their children to travel to other communities or regions for competitions. 

One in four parents indicated that someone in their household had lost a job, while a third of parents said their kids’ youth sports program was a financial strain.

The youth sports industry is in the process of seeking federal aid. Approximately 3,000 organizations have joined the Play Sports Coalition, which has asked Congress to allocate $8.5 billion for the establishment of a Youth Sports Economic Relief Fund. Thirty-one House members have signed on in support of the initiative, the coalition said, and a letter has been passed along to House and Senate leadership.

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