Team sports are in a battle for the time and attention of the American sports enthusiast. That’s one way to summarize to the state of team sports in the United States. According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), team sports remain very popular in the United States, but the overall number of participants is still declining. But, it’s not all bad news.

Right now, interest in organized/sanctioned team sports is on the rise; overall interest by girls/females in team sports at school and in community leagues is strong; lacrosse is a team sport on the rise; and overall play in high school sports rose for the 17th straight year. Those are just some of the facts in SGMA’s U.S. Trends in Team Sports (2006 edition).

For the second time in as many years, this major report on team sports in the United States also contains two special reports: (1) Analyzing Team Sports Participation by Age (2) PRIZM Finds Hot Markets for Team Sports Gear.

Analyzing Team Sports Participation by Age: It’s a two-part report for each sport. In the first part, you can determine the number of participants per sport at any given age. The second part shows the percentage of people in that age group who participate in that sport. For instance, 740,000 nine-year olds played baseball in 2004 which represents 17.3% of all baseball players.

PRIZM Finds Hot Markets for Team Sports Gear: Consumers are divided into 15 different lifestyle groups which are called “social groups,” such as Country Comfort, Micro City Blues, Elite Suburbs, etc. These “social groups” can then be broken down into 66 highly targeted segments. In a nutshell, the PRIZM study allows researchers to segment the nation’s geographic areas down to the ZIP+4 level, therefore determining the types of people who are most likely to be interested in any consumer product or category, such as team sports and team sports equipment.

Listed below are some of the newsworthy points contained in this report.


Nearly 50% of all basketball players say “pickup” games are their main form of play.

Volleyball – Court

There were 12.4 million players in 2005, a 12.7% increase in participation since 2003.

Volleyball – Grass

Agewise, participation is balanced, as the largest age group (25-34) only has 23% of all players.

Volleyball – Beach

25% of all beach volleyball players have been involved in the sport for at least a decade.

Softball – Slow-Pitch

The number of “frequent” participants rose from 4.2 million in ’04 to 4.4 million in ‘05

Softball – Fast-Pitch

The typical fast-pitch softball participant played the sport on 58 separate days in 2005.


Average number of soccer days played per participant has risen from 35 in ’98 to 47 in ’05.

Football – Tackle

At 3.9 years, the average playing career for a tackle football player is shorter than any other major team sports.

Football – Touch/Flag

In the 2005-06 school year, 4.4 million girls played school-sponsored flag football.


“Frequent” participation (52+ days a year) in baseball has grown by 24% since 2000.

Some other interesting factoids contained in U.S. Trends in Team Sports focus on:

Cheerleading – Participants are involved an average of 61 days a year.

Ice Hockey – 35% of all players say this is their favorite activity.

Field Hockey – This is the 11th most popular high school sport for girls.

Lacrosse – Overall participation doubled from 800,000 in 2000 to 1.6 million in 2005.

Also contained in this report are editorial summaries or charts on the following:

1. Comparing Participation and Popularity of Team Sports – (1) top ten most popular sports for high school boys and girls and (2) top six most popular NCAA sports for men and women.

2. Favorite Team Sports – compares level of ‘passion’ among 14 major team sports and measures the fan interest in major pro and college sports.

3. Sales of Team Sports Gear – listed are manufacturers’ sales (at wholesale) of sports equipment for baseball/softball; basketball; football; soccer; and volleyball. Years represented are 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2005.

Data for this report is derived from various sources – the Superstudy® of Sports Participation (conducted by American Sports Data, Inc), U.S. Census Bureau, NCAA, NFSHSA, NCYS, Pop Warner Football, AAU, Little League Baseball, USA Volleyball, USA Softball, Dixie Baseball/Softball, PONY Baseball/Softball, Babe Ruth Softball, RBI, American Legion Baseball, American Amateur Baseball Congress, USYSA, USA Hockey, and ESPN Sports Poll.