- A healthy nation starts with healthy citizens, and participation in sports is one of the most powerful ways to promote healthy habits for a lifetime—not only for physical fitness but also for emotional wellbeing and social cohesion. The natural enthusiasm that children and adolescents (collectively referred to as “youth”) have for physical activity and play creates an ideal opportunity for encouraging sports as an integral part of their development.
In order to increase youth engagement in sports across all communities, particularly those with below-average sports participation and limited access to athletic facilities or recreational areas, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services developed a comprehensive National Youth Sports Strategy (NYSS).1 The NYSS provides a variety of opportunities and action items to unite the nation’s youth sports culture around a shared vision: that one day all youth will have the opportunity, motivation, and access to play sports, regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, ability, or ZIP code.
Building on this charge, the Science Board Subcommittee (Science Board) of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition (Council) has developed a report to equip the Council with a deeper scientific understanding of why youth sports matter and how to promote key features of the NYSS. The report is organized around four pillars, all of which are supported by current, interdisciplinary science: (1) making youth sports accessible; (2) optimizing the youth sports experience; (3) parenting, coaching, and mentoring youth; and (4) fostering lifelong participation and retention in sports.