Sports and Health
The State of Play in America

Summary

The vast majority of children in America play sports. But while about three out of four adults played sports when they were younger, only one in four still plays sports today, and men are more than twice as likely as women to play. Why do we give up sports as we grow older? A new poll conducted by NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health offers fresh insight into how and why adults and kids do — and don’t — play sports. What obstacles keep adults off the field? How can sports help keep kids and adults healthy, and how might programs and policies encourage more widespread participation, particularly among women and lower-income adults? What role do parents play in helping children get, and stay, active?

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Presented in Collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NPR

Background Articles

Image Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Pamela Moore

  • The Forum Moderator

    Hello Everyone, Welcome to our event today. We will start in about 30 minutes (around 12:30pm ET)

  • The Forum Moderator

    Have questions for our panelists? Email them to theforum@hsph.harvard.edu. Or post them here.

  • The Forum Moderator

    We’re getting our panelists mic’d and settled. We’ll begin in just a few minutes.

  • The Forum Moderator

    Thanks @Cindi Wight:disqus. What a perceptive question. We will talk about the risks association with over-specialization in youth sports today.

  • The Forum Moderator

    We have begin. The stream should begin automatically on your sites. If it doesn’t, just hit refresh and “play”

  • The Forum Moderator

    This event is being mounted in connection to a poll about sports and health done by the Harvard Chan School/NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. More about the poll is here: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/poll-many-adults-played-sports-when-young-but-few-still-play/

  • The Forum Moderator
  • Mike

    Was the study regarding organized sports or sports and activity more broadly (unorganized or organized)?

    • The Forum Moderator

      Thanks for the question. The footnotes in the poll say that the survey did not define

      sports. Respondents were asked, “In the past year, have you played or participated in any sports, or haven’t you?”

      • Mike

        Thank you!

  • Jafra Thomas

    How might our “economic system” (i.e. capitalism) be implicated in sports participation patterns of adults?

    Are the numbers of adults who participate in “sports” differ meaningfully from the number of adults that participate in “exercise” programs? If so, what might help to explain such a difference?

  • Jafra Thomas

    An issue raised concerning funding of sports is that many municipalities put forward a considerable amount of tax money to support (i.e. subsidize via bonds and not collecting taxes) semi or professional sports teams. How might such funding patterns affect sporting opportunities for adults within that community?

    • The Forum Moderator

      Thanks for your questions Jafra. I will pass them along.

  • The Forum Moderator

    We are honored to have Olympians Caitlin Cahow and Cobi Jones joining us today. Caitlin, who is speaking now, is a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition: http://www.fitness.gov/

  • Mike

    Although organized sports undoubtedly help build many essential skills (discipline, persistence, grit, team work, etc), is it possible America’s excessive focus on organized sports is harmful? When young people’s limited time is dedicated to regimented activities with established rules and set ways of succeeding, is this hampering or limiting kids’ abilities to think for themselves & be creative (solve problems independently, use their imagination and develop skills that are becoming more essential in the technological age)?

    • The Forum Moderator

      Thanks Mike. I will pass this question along.

  • The Forum Moderator

    Ed Foster-Simeon is president of the US Soccer Foundation: http://www.ussoccerfoundation.org/

  • The Forum Moderator

    One of the Foundation’s programs is called Soccer for Success, which is a free after school program. More info is here: http://www.ussoccerfoundation.org/our-programs/soccer-for-success

  • Thanks for hosting this webcast. Welcome to Robert Blendon, Cobi Jones (omg, I am a huge fan!) and Caitlin Cahow, Elizabeth Matzkin, Ed Foster-Simeon. Everyone

    • The Forum Moderator

      Thank YOU for joining us today. We too are thrilled to have our panelists today.

  • Dr. Ayhan

    Is cross-Fit dangerous ?

  • The Forum Moderator

    The US Soccer Foundation is a past recipient of the Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). This year’s winners will be announced in Sept.: https://www.facebook.com/rwjfsportsaward

  • The Forum Moderator

    We are so pleased to have three-time World Cup Soccer player Cobi Jones with us today.

  • The Forum Moderator

    Cobi is an ambassador for the US Soccer Foundation.

  • The Forum Moderator

    This lovely animation was provided to us by NPR, with whom we are collaborating today.

  • The Forum Moderator

    We also are collaborating with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

  • @CobiJones raises great points; it’s definitely important to create better phys. ed option available to kids everywhere. It’s way cheaper than costs associated with health that can be prevented by more cardio, strength, development that can be gleamed from sports. Plus it’s fun to do

  • The Forum Moderator

    More about Project Play here: http://www.aspenprojectplay.org/

  • Critical point made by Ed Foster-Simeon. While the survey showed that 72 percent of parents say their middle or HS age child plays a sport, it’s important to understand that access is shaped by where you live. Sports participation rates among youth living in households with the lowest incomes ($25k or less) are about half that of youth from wealthier homes ($100k), according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association annual survey of households.

    • The Forum Moderator

      Agreed — such an important point!

  • The Forum Moderator

    Project Play has produced a playbook that you can read here: http://youthreport.projectplay.us/

  • The Forum Moderator

    Our panel has mentioned the idea of age-specific exercise plans. USA Hockey provides some examples here: http://www.admkids.com/page/show/915460-practice-plans

  • LgLuisFabian

    Undoubtedly, the sport has multiple beneficcios to the population. Besides the organic benefits to each individual who practices it, What do you say about the sport as a means of family integration?

    • The Forum Moderator

      Thanks!

  • The Forum Moderator

    One of the programs that the US Soccer Foundation conducts is called Safe Places to Play that provides grants to build field spaces: http://www.ussoccerfoundation.org/our-programs/safe-places-to-play

  • Mike

    Good audience question.

  • The Forum Moderator

    We are so glad that you could join us today. Our event will end in about 5 minutes. If you have missed any of this program, you can watch the video on demand. We will post the video and podcast on this site later this week.

    • LgLuisFabian

      Thanks!

    • Thank you for bringing together everyone on the panel. Great insights and questions too!

  • The Forum Moderator

    We’ll be wrapping up shortly. Looks like we may go a little past 1:30pm ET. Hope you can stick with us.

  • The Forum Moderator

    Missed any of this discussion? Look for the full-length video here later this week. We’ll also post it on-demand on YouTube and iTunesU. We’ll post the podcast here and on iTunesU and SoundCloud.

  • The Forum Moderator

    Thanks to our wonderful panelists and to NPR and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

  • The Forum Moderator

    Happy Summer! Join us again in September for our fall programs!

  • Question for Ed:

    Access to fields is highly regulated by cities, schools and other bureaucratic organizations which makes it difficult for organizations seeking to help kids be more active. This is nowhere more prevalent than with the lower skilled athlete who are “out” of the pyramid. There is a huge problem with “pay-to-play” organizations monopolizing fields (like AYSO and club teams) staggering participation, and more specifically “free-play” which is critically important for socialization amongst younger kids. Working for a non-profit, we experience this issue daily in our efforts to access fields. Several fields in my area that have been supported by the Safe Places to Play program are unavailable to local kids and organizations in this low income communities. They are highly regulated and exclude most children “out” of the pyramid, and many who could actually be “in” the pyramid. How do you recommend non-profits that are working with impoverished and “at-risk” youth gain access to fields, particularly ones supported by your organization that are managed by the pay-to-play operators?

  • Lourdes Boy

    I’m having trouble with the connection, can anybody help me please?

  • Lourdes Boy

    I can’t watch the live video :s

    • The Forum Moderator

      Hi — our webcast ended at 1:30pm ET. But we will post the video on demand tomorrow. Thank you for your interest.