World Cup Excitement, yet Youth Soccer Numbers Decline Nationwide

Did you watch any of the World Cup? It’s been an exciting time for soccer. My brother-in-law and neighbors, all from Colombia, were especially glued to the games this summer. I had a lot of fun cheering with them in both English and Spanish, and my sister smiled reliving her days as an all-district soccer player in South Austin. I also love cheering for YMCA Youth Soccer — and meeting enthusiastic parents on the sidelines. (Remember Rita, who dressed like a banana to cheer on her daughter’s team this spring?) So, I have to say, given all the soccer excitement lately, I was surprised to see this headline from New York Times: “Youth Soccer Participation Has Fallen Significantly in America.” The July 14 article by reporter Joe Drape described how, in the past three years, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association found that soccer participation by 6- to 12-year-olds has declined nearly 14 percent, to 2.3 million players.  The articles notes that: - “participation in youth sports nationwide has declined in the past decade, as children gravitate to electronic diversions and other distractions;” and- “high burnout rates from pushing children into travel soccer too young as well as the high costs of programs have also contributed to the lower numbers.” Hope Solo, goalkeeper for the 2015 Women’s World Cup championship team, is quoted by the Times as saying her family could not have afforded to put her in soccer if she were a child today. “That obviously alienates so many communities, including Hispanic communities, the black communities, the rural communities and underrepresented communities,” Solo said in the Times articles. “Soccer, right now, has become a rich, white-kid sport.” The YMCA’s Youth Sports programs, included soccer, are intended to overcome those challenges, making sports affordable, accessible, and inclusive for players of all backgrounds and skill levels. Our programs seek to welcome players and meet them where they are, physically and emotionally, building skills while also fostering self-esteem, confidence, and friendship. “My closest friendships are still from my youth playing soccer,” said TownLake YMCA Sports Director Kristen Mohon Nates. “Soccer helped form my healthy lifestyle.” One piece of good news from the NY Times article came from just down the highway. Former San Antonio Mayor Ed Garza told the times, “Soccer is the fastest-growing sport in urban schools. It’s part of the cultural dynamic.” Let’s keep growing soccer in Central Texas! Here’s more about YMCA Youth Soccer from “YMCA youth soccer promises no try outs, no getting cut and no bench warmers! Every child plays at least half of every game while making friends and learning new techniques. The YMCA Youth Sports Program helps kids become not only better players, but better people as well. It’s a progressive program, with multiple age-specific levels. We encourage fair play, positive competition, and family involvement. Open to all kids ages 4-15.” Click here to register now for Fall Youth Sports, including soccer! 
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