According to the SGMA, overall participation in the top seven team sports in the U.S. declined in the last year but participation in seven 'niche' team sports is on the rise. Those seven 'niche' team sports which had respectable gains in participation since 2008 are fast-pitch softball (up 13.8%), ice hockey (up 12.2%), rugby (up 8.7%), beach volleyball (up 7.3%), lacrosse (up 6.2%), indoor soccer (3.7%), and gymnastics (3.6%).

 Those top seven team
sports which had drops in participation in 2009 are basketball, baseball,
outdoor soccer, touch football, slow pitch softball, court volleyball, and
tackle football. 

Those findings were collected in the association's annual
participation study on team sports — U. S. Trends in Team Sports (2010

“In 2009, all major youth sports groups reported
increases in participation in league and sanctioned play which supports our
findings that organized recreation continues to be strong while 'pick up'/casual
play is on the decline,” said SGMA President Tom Cove.  “One of the strongest elements of the
entire team sports universe is that young people remain strongly committed to
team sports through their schools and local recreation programs.  Three of the biggest reasons why people don't
play more team sports is lack of time, scheduling concerns, and the issue of
specialization where athletes, specifically younger ones, are dedicating their
time to just one activity with the goal of getting the attention of a college
coach, pro scout, or possibly winning a state, regional, or national

“While we are aware that a growing number of athletes
are focusing on a single sport, we strongly feel it's important to promote
athletes playing multiple sports,” said Elliot Hopkins, director
educational services for the National Federation of State High School
Associations (Indianapolis, IN).  “It
is our wish that more schools and coaches should encourage their
student-athletes to play more than one sport. 
It helps produce more well-rounded individuals.  It also helps cut down the physical stress on
certain parts of the body which are subjected to the same repetitive motion
with single-sport athletes.”

“These days, there are so many outlets for single-sport
athletes to continue playing throughout 
the year in a single sport,” said Sean Benevidies, co-owner of
Athlete's Advantage, a fitness center which helps athletes with year-round
conditioning and strength training (Wellington, FL).  “These athletes are spending time in the
offseason working on their strength, speed, quickness, and agility in pursuit
of a state championship or in their attempt to earn a potential college

“I am noticing that female athletes are getting more
specialized in their athletic careers,” said Wayne Ryan, the athletic director/girls
basketball coach at Summers County High School (Hinton, WV).  “There are simply more opportunities for
female athletes to be competitive in their favorite sport throughout the
calendar year.”

“Interest in rugby and indoor soccer is strong in the
mid-Atlantic region – for both males and females of all ages,” said
retailer Matt Godek, owner of Godek Rugby & Soccer (Merrifield, VA).  “And we see interest in both of those
sports increasing which is great for business. 
One of the biggest issues for indoor soccer is getting access to a
facility.  Demand is strong and supply is

Participation in high school sports rose again as a record
7,628,377 students played high school sports in the U.S. in the 2009-10 school
year, according to the NFHS.

Listed below are a few newsworthy points about team sports
listed in U.S. Trends in Team Sports:

Big Picture Perspective: 
With the exception of beach volleyball, slow-pitch softball, rugby,
touch football, and paintball, team sports participation in the U.S. is
dominated by players under age 24.

Household Demographics:  
Lacrosse has the highest percentage of participants (48%) whose families
have annual incomes of $100,000+.

Age Group Leaders: 
Gymnastics has the highest percentage of overall participants in the
6-12 age group (48%); track & field has the highest percentage of overall
participants in the 13-17 age group (44%); and rugby has the highest percentage
of overall participants in the 18-24 age group. 

Casual Play:  While
casual/pick-up play is on the decline, there are four activities where more
than 50% of their participants are casual/pick-up players – basketball, touch
football, beach volleyball, and grass volleyball.

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

  • Participation
    in High School Sports – a summary on high school sports, including a list of
    the top ten most popular sports for high school boys and girls.
  • Participation
    in Community Recreational Sports Leagues
  • The Churn
    Rate and 'Leaky Bucket' Syndrome – every year, SGMA looks at those people that
    continue to play a specific sport plus those that return for one reason or
    another to that sport against those that quit playing that same sport.  This is known as the 'Leaky Bucket' Syndrome.

The team sports featured in U.S. Trends in Team Sports (2010
edition) include baseball, basketball, cheerleading, field hockey, football
(flag), football (tackle), football (touch), gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse,
paintball, roller hockey, rugby, soccer (indoor), soccer (outdoor), softball
(fast pitch), softball (slow pitch), track & field, volleyball (beach),
volleyball (court), volleyball (grass), and wrestling.

report is available free-of-charge to full members of SGMA and the editorial