Bernalillo County to study enrollment, access to local youth sports leagues

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – For many parents, it’s become an expensive game of pay-to-play.

Bernalillo County is now trying to figure out if the high cost of youth sports is keeping Albuquerque-area kids off the fields and courts.

A new effort from the county’s volunteer Youth Sports Commission is aimed at studying the metrics behind who is and isn’t playing in youth sporting leagues and if there’s anything that can be done to help.

A mother and member of the county’s Youth Sports Commission (YSC), Lindsay Smart sees a benefit in getting kids actively engaged in sports.

“I think that youth sports have a health impact, a behavioral health impact,” said Smart.

She also sees a benefit of the activity to the community at large.

“Youth sports are unifying, I mean if you look at the Lobos, (you can see) communities come around for supporting a similar cause,” said Smart. “(Youth sports) give a sense of belonging, they give a sense that somebody’s out there that will be able to help support the whole child.”

The county’s YSC started in late 2014 with the goal of promoting and expanding local youth sports, which are thought to help kids with life skills and health benefits.

Smart is the chair of the county YSC’s subcommittee known as “Youth Engagement in Sports.” Some subcommittee members are concerned about national statistics showing a decline in youth sports enrollment and the idea of families being priced out of leagues that can sometimes cost families hundreds of dollars to take part.

“I think certainly the financial piece is there, access to transportation, and then the other side is sort of the systemic thing, having enough teams and coaches available to meet the demands and the needs,” said Smart.

With changes to youth sports in mind, Smart and other committee members are now aiming to study the barriers families experience in accessing local youth sports.

Through December, the subcommittee is aimed at studying enrollment in various Albuquerque-area youth sport leagues, also the age, gender, ethnicity and neighborhoods of the kids participating.

With that baseline of data, the county Youth Sports Committee is hoping to understand who’s being left out of youth sports activities, why and if anything can be done to help.

“Making more sports available I think would be a great outcome, whether that’s putting more money into something or being more creative in how sports are accessed,” said Smart.

A dad with a son and daughter in Taekwondo, Mark Learn knows the struggle of getting his own kids involved in physical activity. For Learn, timing and transportation are some of the notable challenges.

“It is difficult because we’re working, we’re tired,” said Learn. “We work full time.”

Learn says he appreciates any effort to keep kids active in Bernalillo County.

“If there’s a way to help the parents get their kids to these types of activities, I think in the end, it’s great if they can eliminate a lot of those barriers that might be blocking parents from succeeding, from getting their kids to succeed,” said Learn.

Bernalillo County’s committee hopes to finish its baseline study of youth sports by New Years 2018.

If you have information you’d like to help provide for the study, contact Lindsay Smart at 505-272-8637 or lsmart@salud.unm.edu. The subcommittee is aiming to collect data from soccer, YAFL, softball, baseball, wrestling, basketball, rugby, track and field, martial arts and other sports leagues in Bernalillo County.

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