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Secretary for Health Releases National Youth Sports Strategy

By Staff, 10/01/20, 3:00PM EDT


HHS emphasizes underserved populations and highlights strategies that can facilitate participation despite barriers to access

The benefits for youth who engage in regular physical activity are clear: they have improved bone health, weight status, cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, cardiometabolic health, and cognitive function and a reduced risk of depression.1 Playing sports can provide additional benefits, including developing competence, confidence, and self-esteem; reducing risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts and tendencies; and improving life skills, such as goal setting, time management, and work ethic.2-7 Sports participation also provides youth with the opportunity to develop social and interpersonal skills, such as teamwork, leadership, and relationship building, and enables youth to benefit from the communal aspect of team sports.3,4

Sports can facilitate the development of physical literacy, which is the ability to move with competence and confidence in a variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person.8,9 Sports encompass many of the basic movement skills that contribute to physical literacy, including running, balancing, hopping, skipping, jumping, dodging, gliding, falling, lifting, swimming, kicking, throwing, and catching. Additionally, sport sampling, or trying out a variety of different sports and physical activities rather than focusing exclusively on one sport, can help develop physical literacy.

With all of these benefits, it is striking that only 20 percent of adolescents meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (getting at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day).10 Only 54 percent of youth participated in a sports team in 2017,11 so there is a clear opportunity to support youth getting more physical activity through sports. Additionally, there are disparities in participation: girls, racial and ethnic minorities, youth from households of low socioeconomic status, youth living in rural areas, and youth with disabilities are less likely to be physically active and play sports.2,10,12 And they are disproportionally affected by barriers to youth sports, including cost, access, and time, among others. Therefore, the National Youth Sports Strategy (NYSS), developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), emphasizes underserved populations and highlights strategies that can facilitate participation despite these barriers.

The NYSS is an important first step to reorient U.S. youth sports culture around a shared vision: that one day all youth will have the opportunity, motivation, and access to play sports, regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, ability, or ZIP code.

You can read the Full Report here.