The Decline of Athletics


Evie Gingras

Over the years South Hadley has seen such a lack of sports participation that the high schools only option for a lot of programs to continue is to waive up 7/8th graders; but this issue doesn’t just affect our high school, it’s also reached our youth recreational sports. So what’s the reason? 

There’s not just one universal rationale for this issue, in fact there are many factors that contribute to the lack of engagement. Last year, due to Covid-19, many sports had restrictions that made them less appealing and kids had an increased amount of free time; some kids acclimated to the amplified free time, whereas others found new activities to spend their time with. Jobs became popular among students and sports would take away from work and the money they earn. 

While most sports have seen a significance in disengagement, certain sports have thrived: like soccer. Many kids are opting out of playing other sports to focus on a specific sport; playing club and in the off-season. In addition to recreational soccer, roots now offer both in-season and off-season soccer leagues; and they’re in no shortage of participants. While it’s important to encourage kids to engage in the sports they love, it’s just as important to encourage kids to try unfamiliar things and diversity in their interests. 

Athletic Director Eric Castonguay and Recreation Dept. Director Andy Rogers were kind enough to provide me with the numbers of all participants in every sport over the last few years; and many have a quite alarming decline. To start with high school, there is about a 33% decrease in participation for all sports (excluding soccer) since 2019. Some sports have even seen a decrease even while wavering 7/8th graders. Swim has seen a 67% decrease even while wavering 7/8th graders, and field hockey has seen an 18% decrease. Girls lacrosse only has two additional players since last season despite the 7/8th graders playing up. For youth recreational sports there is about a 27% decrease since 2018 (excluding soccer). 

Other reasons for the decline of participation in school sports might be performance anxiety, unaware that some sports are an option, the cost of sports, and dance/gymnastics. Many students have said they quit sports because after Covid restrictions were lifted they felt like they would be behind everyone else. The cost of user fees have increased drastically, most high school sports are $175+. That doesn’t even include the required equipment to play, quite a few kids are discouraged by this toll.