State of SBYD Programs After 18 Months of COVID

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                   Contact: Rob Smith / 301-580-6630
May 23, 2022                                                           [email protected]

NATIONAL SURVEY: Low Income Youth Participation in Sports-Based Youth Development Programs Declines 52% During First 18 Months of COVID

Silver Spring, MD — In a pair of national surveys conducted in 2020 and 2021 by the Youth Sports Collaborative Network (YSCN), youth registration numbers at sports-based youth development (SBYD) nonprofits declined by 52% between March 2020 and September 2021, a loss of 30,237 youth participants in 16 cities across the US. This is one of several findings in YSCN's 2022 Research Report: State of SBYD Programs After First 18 Months of COVID.

SBYD programs use a particular sport to facilitate learning, life skill development and improved wellness and health outcomes. These programs are often free or low cost to underserved youth in their locales.

In YSCN’s 2020 survey documenting the first 6 months of COVID, 81% of surveyed SBYD programs expressed extreme or high levels of concern about the health and wellness of their youth without in-person programs.

This concern is supported by the widely reported mental health impact of the pandemic on our nation’s youth. These organizations provide critical youth mentoring support through organized in-person sports and fitness that lead to overall improved health and wellness.  

The 2021 survey also revealed 67% of the participating programs were having problems hiring coaches, while 47% reported difficulties in hiring administrative staff. The most commonly cited causes for these challenges included difficulty recruiting qualified people, as well as insufficient salary and benefits that the organizations were able to offer their top candidates.

“It is not surprising that these nonprofit organizations offering free or low-cost sports programs to underserved youth are having the same hiring challenges as other small businesses and nonprofits throughout the country,” said Rob Smith, Founding Executive Director of the Youth Sports Collaborative Network.

SBYD nonprofits reported in 2021 encouraging financial results from their fund raising. For their current fiscal year, 61% reported greater or equal income relative to the previous fiscal year. Additionally, 71% were projecting more income in their upcoming fiscal year.

“However, given today’s competitive employment market, funders must also support the increasing costs for well-trained coaches and administrative staff that are critical to delivering these quality programs,” said Smith.

Before COVID, SBYD nonprofits had been growing annually the number of youth in their programs. Now during challenging employment conditions, they have to first build back their programs to support the 30,000+ youth registrations they lost during the first 18 months of COVID.

The full results of the 2021 survey along with the comparative data from the two surveys are provided in YSCN’s 2022 Research Report, State of US SBYD Programs After 18 Months of COVID.

The Youth Sports Collaborative Network (YSCN)  is the national association for sports-based youth development program providers and their supporting organizations. YSCN connects SBYD organizations across the country to share and learn about successful SBYD practices while providing collective advocacy and research on the benefits of SBYD programs before foundations, as well as local, state, and federal government agencies and legislatures.


YSCN”s online survey was powered by UpMetrics Social Impact Analytics platform. More information on sports-based youth development can be found on the YSCN website.

The full YSCN Research Report is being provided to YSCN Members, nonprofits participating in the surveys, and official media. For more information contact Rob Smith, Founding Executive Director at [email protected] or 301-580-6630