Coaching Volleyball Magazine October / November 2015 - Page 6

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR'S LETTER Our Game Kathy DeBoer 460,000 HS Participation Girls’ Team Sports 440,000 Volleyball 420,000 Basketball 400,000 Softball 380,000 Soccer 360,000 340,000 NFHS Data 5 4 -1 14 20 -1 3 20 13 2 -1 12 20 1 -1 11 20 0 -1 10 20 -1 9 20 09 8 -0 08 20 7 -0 07 20 -0 -0 05 20 20 06 6 320,000 While the NFHS news was certainly a cause for celebration, the same week Sport Business Journal’s cover story was titled, “Are the kids alright?” Disturbing research shows a serious drop in youth participation numbers. The article highlighted five-year (2009-2014) declines in the six- to 17-year-old demographic in most sports, including a 22% drop (800,000 participants) in volleyball. (see chart) Tracking The Changes In Youth Sports Participation Participants by ages 6-17 Baseball Basketball Field Hockey Football (Tackle) Gymnastics Ice Hockey Lacrosse Soccer (Outdoor) Softball (Fast-pitch) Track and Field Volleyball (Court) Wrestling 2009 (000) 2014 (000) Pct. Change 7,012 10,404 438 3,962 2,510 517 624 8,360 988 2,697 3,420 1,385 6,711 9,694 370 3,254 2,809 743 804 7,656 1,004 2,417 2,680 805 -4.30% -6.80% -15.50% -17.90% 11.90% 43.70% 28.80% -8.40% 1.60% -10.40% -21.60% -41.90% Source: 2015 SFIA U.S. Trends in Team Sports Report 4 | October/November 2015 | COACHING VOLLEYBALL In examining the SFIA report, and adding data from other years, the impact of the 2008 Beijing Olympics jumps off the page. Total Volleyball Participants 2007-20014 10000 ’08 Olympics Male 8000 Female Total 6000 4000 14 20 13 20 11 20 20 20 09 2000 07 # of Participants (000) O ne of the tasks we engage in regularly is the study of macro-trends in our sport. Examples include participation reports comparing volleyball to other sports, articles which highlight problems in other sports that can provide warning signs for us, and longitudinal data that can connect our daily experience to bigger trends in the surrounding environment. Sometimes we run across conflicting data and must sort through the numbers to make sense of the trends. This happened with two reports that were released in the same month and drew remarkably different conclusions about the health of volleyball. The first was the National Federation of High Schools annual participation report which noted that last year volleyball became the top team sport for girls in U.S. high schools. As shown below, this accomplishment is only partially due to growth in volleyball, as one third of the participant gap came from a drop in girls’ basketball. As you will recall, the most compelling storyline of the games was the USA men’s volleyball team. The tragic death of head coach Hugh McCutcheon’s father-in-law, his absence from the bench in the early rounds and the team’s dramatic march to the gold medal had many Americans watching men’s volleyball for the first time. Couple that with the silver-medal run by our women’s team, coached by Lang Ping, a Chinese volleyball icon coaching against her own country, and volleyball picked up huge numbers of “Big Event” U.S. viewers. Overall participation grew by 36% in two years, from 6,005,000 to 8,190,000. Maybe more significant, almost 60% of that increase (1.3 million) were male, many likely first introduced to volleyball by our men’s team. My point is that 2009 was a high-water mark for volleyball that we were unlikely to sustain, not because USAV, AVCA or other volleyball groups are incompetent, but simply because “Big Event” viewership is not sustainable for any sport (World Cup, Final Four, Super Bowl). Once the U.S. sports world settled back into “normal,” i.e. a place with minimal volleyball in the sports media, the Beijing bump inevitably dissipated. A much better benchmark for volleyball particVolleyball Participation ipation was 2007 before 6- to 17-year olds this unusual pinnacle. Female Male We still show a drop of 216,000 participants 2001 in the six- to 17-year-old 1955 demographic – certainly a cause for concern, but a 891 7% decline rather than the 723 22% plummet reported in 2007 2015 the SBJ article. (see chart) www.avca.org