Researchers in Australia looked at almost 3000 young people from 1990 through 2015. They measured sports participation up through age 17 and then continued to monitor the participants into adulthood for key health characteristics. They found that those adults who had regularly participated in some form of organized sport throughout their childhood and teen years were significantly more likely to be healthy as adults.
So what can be done to prevent sports drop out and foster better adult health? Most “traditional” sports (football, baseball, basketball) are suffering from early specialization, creating divides between the kids with desires to play at a higher level and kids who just want to play for fun. Rec leagues and Comp leagues exist to try to catch kids at both ends of the spectrum, but there are a lot of kids who fall in between. Consequently, drop out risk is high. In addition, specifically for football, concussion and other injury risk concerns have led to decreased numbers of participants.
Alternative sports and sports leagues have popped up to give kids more and more options to keep playing. Here in Utah, we’ve watched sports like Lacrosse and Rugby gain massive popularity. Track and cross country and high school mountain bike teams are growing rapidly. Volleyball clubs, cheer and tumbling teams, and dance outfits are growing, although time commitments and costs seem to be rising with them as well. Golf, tennis, and other individual sports seem to be making a comeback as well. These alternatives provide kids and teens (and parents) many opportunities to build foundations of sports participation and health into their future.