According to SGMA’s annual participation study on team sports, U.S. Trends in Team Sports, niche team sports like lacrosse, paintball and cheerleading are exhibiting the strongest growth patterns while traditional team sports like basketball, baseball and outdoor soccer are attracting the most team sports participants. This study also contains a special report Analyzing Team Sports Participation by Age which reveals that team sports play peaks at age 13.

The report shows that there is a continuation of a trend in team sports: participation in sanctioned/supervised leagues is quite strong, while there’s been a decline in the number of athletes playing casual/pickup games.  On the bright side, overall play in high school sports rose for the 19th straight year and 58% of U.S. children (6-17) are playing on at least one sanctioned team each year.

It was found that more than half (53%) of all basketball players are considered frequent participants and that there are nearly as many slow-pitch softball players between the ages of 18 and 34 (3.4 million) as there are players over the age of 35 (3.61 million).


According to SGMA, there has been a 14% increase in participation in varsity high school baseball play since 1990-91, and since the 2000-01 school year, there have been more women soccer players at the collegiate level than men players.

With niche sports, there has been a 104.2% growth in lacrosse (with 370% growth since 1990), a 51.5% growth in paintball and a 24.5% growth in cheerleading. Other niche sports that have had respectable gains in participation in recent years have been ultimate Frisbee, rugby, field hockey, and all forms of volleyball.