What Are the Most Popular Youth Sports?

Participation in youth sports has grown for boys and girls. Sports provide benefits of exercise and companionship with teammates. Allowing children to compete in a safe and fun environment allows kids to develop skills of perseverance, training, work ethic, and at a young age body kinesthetics (ability to know how to move one’s body).

A basketball coach smiling for a photo with three teammates. (Image: Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Number One Is Basketball

According to ESPN, the most popular sport for girls is basketball with over 450,000 girls playing for a school-sponsored team. The sport has also risen between 2006 and 2012 to become the most popular among boys with over 550,000 boys playing for a school-sponsored team. This sport can be more competitive as far as selection as kids become older. At younger ages though there are many developmental leagues to teach basic skills without the pressure of competition.

Baseball/Softball/Tee Ball

Termed America’s favorite pastime, baseball and its variations are popular sports among America’s youth. At a young age, boys and girls begin by playing tee ball. As they age, they may enter a league where the balls will be pitched from a machine. Beyond that, the sport will split into baseball for boys and softball for girls. Both sports rank second among the top five organized sports for their gender among youths.

Football Drops to Third Place

This is the third most popular sport among boys with more than 1 million interscholastic participants as of 2012. This excludes youth league participants. Football allows for kids of any shape and size (variation of positions) to compete in a team atmosphere. Parents tend to be concerned about this sport because of the contact. However, if taught properly, football can be one of the safest sports to play because of padding and helmets.

Fast Growing Soccer

Perhaps one of the fastest growing sports in America among the youth is soccer. Soccer is the last sport to cross both gender groups top five for youth. It is an easy sport to begin learning and to play, which makes it exciting for youngsters almost immediately. Although it is simple at first, strategy and advanced skills develop over time making the game more competitive as they grow older.

Among Top Five for Girls -- Volleyball

Popular among female youths, volleyball also provides a team opportunity. Volleyball at a young age does not require skills that some other sports may require, making it easy for someone to begin playing. As with most sports though, as age progresses so does the skill level and competition. Volleyball ranks as a top five sports for girls.

Outdoor Track and Field

This sport allows a youth to still participate individually and as a team at the same time. Track and field allows participation across a broad spectrum of athletic capabilities. Youths have a chance to compete in many events from sprinting to distance runs and throwing to jumping. Track and field can provide an opportunity for most any youth to get out and compete.

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