What Data Reveals About Youth Sports’ Recovery from COVID-19

There is no doubting that the mandated shutdowns of youth sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic this spring and summer have greatly impacted the business of team sports. Team dealers and their vendors certainly know that.

That impact has also been felt by the public and private associations that promote and support youth sports programs across the country. They, too, saw their businesses dry up for the past three months, with reopenings now cautiously taking place through the summer months.

Looking to gauge and understand that impact, the SFIA’s Coronavirus Update Series recently hosted a webinar on the topic, featuring Evan Brandoff, CEO and co-founder of LeagueSide, a youth sports sponsorship platform with 10,000 youth sports organizations with sponsors that include Comcast and Dunkin, and Alex Silverman, senior reporter, Business of Sports Morning Consult, a reporter covering the business of sports.

“Youth sports is such a special industry that brings communities together and people together. COVID-19 has been devastating for the youth sports industry,” Silverman said in explaining why the two groups have focused on the segment.

Here are some of the findings of their recent research:

  • Nearly half of youth sports organizations say they are in danger of permanently suspending operations if the situation continues and 45 percent of organizations expect less youth sports participation. In addition, 54 percent of parents are worried a program that their child participates in could fold.
  • Nearly two in five youth sports programs say they are within three months of shuttering. {The survey was taken in April, so closings were starting by the time of the webinar. It seems baseball leagues are the most susceptible because they lost their key spring season.) They have expenses for facilities and staff they must continue to pay. Sixty percent of programs generate more than three-quarters of their revenue from registrations. “This would leave tens of millions of kids on the sidelines,” said Brandoff.
  • Another sub-sector of youth sports business is the private facilities in many communities. “They have been devastated by not being able to keep their doors open during the pandemic,” Brandoff said.
  • One quarter of parents don’t expect to feel comfortable with their children participating until 2021. As a result, 52 percent of parents say they’re less likely to enroll their kids in sports in wake of the pandemic. “There’s definitely a significant amount of reluctance to get their kids back on the field and that is something that youth sports organizations are going to have to deal with,” said Silverman.
  • Almost all parents said they need to see cases decline in their area before allowing their children to play organized sports. Nearly three in four say it’s important that a vaccine exist.
  • As of early June, 22 states have allowed limited restart of youth sports programs.
  • There are some potential sources of relief for youth sports organizations: About half of parents are willing to pre-pay for future seasons to help their children’s programs stay afloat and 58 percent are willing to pay more for programs to adopt virus safety protocols. Sixty percent of parents did say that sports were the most important activity their children participate in, so they indicate they will do what they need to keep their children enrolled.