Idle Children Are a Bad Omen

If you care about the health of future generations of Americans, you probably share my concern when reading this Wall Street Journal article about a decrease in participation among kids in organized sports over the last several years.

The drops are relatively small (a few percent) and participation is still very high (millions of kids), but as a trend starter, this isn’t at all encouraging. We’ve known for a while that baseball is trending down — it’s seen as less relevant, with its slower pace and pastoral feel — than the other major participation sports. And, of course, we’ve heard all the talk about football and its effects on brain health, which unsurprisingly has given some parents (including President Obama) pause.

And we’ve gotten used to the surge in soccer participation, which is huge, but it also declined. How about basketball, which probably has the most cool cachet right now? Also, huge, but also down.

It’s an article of faith among people in the arts that early participation leads to support and attendance later in life. I can only say intuitively that makes sense to me, but I don’t have any data to back up my intuition. Put differently, I’m sure it makes SOME difference, but I don’t know how big that difference is.

Here’s what I do know: A nation of people who don’t do things as children probably won’t do them as adults, either. It’s a big problem for live entertainment, and it’s an even bigger problem for society. I often say to people that the Goldstar demographic is “busy people.” They do stuff: sports, arts, music, community stuff, kung fu classes, whatever. They are people who have things in their lives. It’s very difficult for us to sell to people who get flustered when they have to pick up the dry cleaning AND stop by the store for milk in the same day.

Add to that the health penalty of a less active generation, and this is a real problem.

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