What is “sports” to you?
Today, sports are received as a form of entertainment, a social event, a channel for cultural values, a space for learning, and more. It can mean something different to everyone. This polysemous term has evolved far past its primary significance of physical activity, flourishing into something beautiful for communities all around the world. But unfortunately, sports have taken on some uglier meanings because organized sports, play, or activity is not necessarily something that everyone gets to enjoy. For some, it’s exclusive, elitist, and discriminatory.
The Sports-Haves and Have-nots
The vast world of sports loses its luster when we realize its extreme socio-economic selectivity. For too many, it has decayed into what Tom Farrey calls “a system defined by sports haves and have nots.” As the Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program, Farrey speaks towards the widening gap in accessibility to youth sports. Nearly half of all parents from lower income families do not have their children participate in sports due to high out-of-pocket fees. On top of that, more competitive forms of organized sports are even more expensive due to equipment and transportation costs. This kind of financial landscape supports the following trends of increased sports inaccessibility (produced by the SFIA):
- Children from homes in the lowest income bracket are far more likely to be physically inactive than kids from wealthier households
- For most sports, participation rates on a regular basis keep declining
- The average child plays fewer than two sports – a statistic now on a regular down cycle due to sport specialization, even though evidence shows playing only one sport can be harmful to the body and stunt athletic development
As concerning as these trends are, they rarely change over the years. The reality for many families is that the pursuit of sports is a financial burden and an implausible dream. The pressure to specialize in a sport, the costliness of even pursuing or trying out for one, create a tall hurdle for thousands of families. There seems to be an endless amount of statistics and studies that prove the positive impact sports have on kids – so why shouldn’t we work to make sports accessible to all?
We’ve heard of the great comeback stories of sports underdogs like Michael Oher and Kathleen Castles, both of whom portray the financial barriers and existing inequalities in youth sports. With people who helped them along the way, these individuals were able to reap the benefits of sports. But like Dr. Amira Rose Davis says, “individual volunteers are not a solution to the larger, systemic problems” at hand. It takes a village, and for a problem as big as this, it takes more than one.
To help solve this growing problem of sports inaccessibility, Hiveclass works towards the promise of access and equity by providing a service for institutions. Our products offer youth sports training and physical education through libraries and schools so kids are welcome to simply play, learn, and explore – without the stigma, without the cost, and without the embarrassment. With Hiveclass, sports exploration (and not immediate specialization) is a guarantee for kids, as it should be. Sports is something that anyone from all walks of life can enjoy and participate in, and it’s time we teach our kids that. Let’s revive the spirit of camaraderie and the inclusive joy that sports bring, together.