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The Dangerous Shift From Core To Casual Sports Participants

The Dangerous Shift From Core To Casual Sports Participants

The PHIT America Opinion

SILVER SPRING, MD – April 27, 2017 – Recent news from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) has revealed some concerning trends in the big-picture realm of sports and fitness participation in the U.S.  There has been a slow but certain shift from core or frequent sports & fitness participants to casual or less committed participants. The first chart (below) shows the dramatic change within the core-casual sports participation dynamic. This growth in casual participation signals a reduction of core or frequent sports participants. This is not healthy for the sports and fitness industry. Less committed participants are now spending less money on sporting goods equipment, athletic footwear, sports apparel and other sports or fitness products.

Many people will quickly put the blame on the focus on technology and social media, especially with children. But, there are issues within the sports and fitness industry that are causing declines in participation that can be controlled. Even if children’s addiction to electronics is an issue, leaders in the sports and fitness industry must think of and implement solutions to overcome these challenges.

So, why is this shift from core to casual happening?  And how can this trend be turned around?  PHIT America’s leadership team gives its perspectives and solutions.

Mike May, Director of Communications, PHIT America

“The rise in casual participation is a sign that people are making a marginal commitment to being physically active and healthy, and the marginal commitment is being blamed on the demands of the workplace and family obligations. Just look at chart below – Americans Speak Out – What Will Get Them More Active?   We know how unhealthy America is, but only 25% of people in the Physical Activity Council survey said they would get more physically active for health reasons. We need to constantly stress the physical, mental and social benefits of being active.”

“The lack of strong growth in ‘core’ participation is the direct result of too many Americans, especially Millennials, not having daily P.E. while in school.  To them, spending time playing sports/being physically active ranks alongside texting friends, shopping, dining out, and watching the movies, just another thing to do with their free time.”

Doug Gordon, Major Sponsor Representative and Board Member, PHIT America

“With more than 100 sports, fitness, and athletic opportunities to choose from, it’s understandable why the average sports participant is not making a dedicated commitment to one or two sports, fitness, or athletic outlets, simply because there are so many sports to choose from these days.”

“Americans, especially young Americans, do not understand the lifelong benefits of a solid, strong, and steady interest in an athletic outlet.  Being physically fit and active is not an option in life, it’s a necessity.  Sadly, too many Americans are tethered to their electronic ‘lifelines’ – their phones, tablets, and computers -- which restrict the time they need to be physically active.”

“The rising cost of many sports and fitness products is an impediment to people getting involved in sports and staying involved in sports.”

Jim Baugh, Founder, PHIT America

“It says a great deal about our ‘products’ -- the sports & fitness activities themselves. For children, I think we have turned off many kids by making sports too serious. Sports and fitness activities used to be fun for children. Now, I hear so many people say, “The coach is too serious.” “Mom and Dad are too critical. I just want to have fun.”  You can see what has happened to core participation for many youth sports in the chart entitled Core Youth Sport Participation Is Down – 12 of 13 Have Declined. The sports industry has lost many participants over the last five years. I also love what a community has done in Wisconsin. Look at the 4th image below and see how they are stressing FUN. Every sports field in America should have a sign like this.”

“In golf, tennis and other sports, many participants are taken for granted. People are very busy these days.  And, they are pulled in many directions every day. People who run leagues, fitness classes or sports programs need to constantly connect with their participants and encourage them. The best programs and clubs I have seen have designated staff focused on recruitment and retention.”

“I also feel the sports industry has not done a good job ‘courting’ new participants to become more committed.  Too many people try an activity and then quit and are not compelled to stay involved. Or they don’t try the proper way. Trial is never the issue. It is retention through good introductory programs that get new participants comfortable with the activity.”

And, for many activities, group sessions with people of the same ability and/or friends will help get new participants ‘over the hump.’  The chart (Americans Speak Out – What Will Get Them More Active?) from the recent Physical Activity Council study indicates what will influence a person to participate more often in a sports or fitness activity.

‘Inactivity Pandemic 2017 Report’ Coming Soon

Within the next few weeks, PHIT America will see an eye-opening news release on how the sports and fitness industry is contributing to the Healthcare Crisis Time Bomb. Then, the following week, PHIT America will publish the “Inactivity Pandemic 2017 Report,” featuring a comprehensive review of the Physical Activity Council study.  

4 charts