New Survey Shows That Football is The Fastest Growing Youth Sport in America

Boy smiling while removing his mouth guard at a Gatlinburg football game.

For years, Monday Night Football games began with the classic question, “Are you ready for some football?” According to a new survey, the answer is still a resounding “yes”! A recent study commissioned by USA Football, the sport’s national governing body, found that football is the fastest growing youth sport in the country.

As one of the Southeast’s leading destinations for youth football tournaments, camps, and events, Rocky Top Sports World is thrilled to hear this news! We’ve summarized the survey’s findings below.

Flag Football is on the Rise

For this study, USA Football surveyed 30,000 young athletes, ages 6 – 18. The single biggest growth in football participation can be attributed to flag football. From 2014 to 2015, flag football gained roughly 120,000 more players ages 6 – 14, a growth rate of 8.7 percent. Older teens are flocking to flag football as well. The survey found that almost 100,000 players ages 15 – 18 started playing flag football, a growth rate of 10.5 percent.

Tackle Football is Still Going Strong

While it was flag football that showed the most impressive numbers, tackle football remains a popular pastime. For the 6 – 14 age group, about 21,000 new players took to the gridiron last year, an increase of 1.9 percent. High school age athletes also swelled the ranks of tackle football teams, with an increase of roughly 30,000 more players, or 2.5 percent.

(See Also: Former UT Coach Phillip Fulmer to Lead Gatlinburg Football Camp at Rocky Top Sports World)A team huddle during a flag football game.

Explaining the Trends

The huge rise in flag football participation last year is being attributed in part to parental concern about the injuries that can come from tackle football. In flag football, the defensive team must remove a flag from the ball carrier’s belt rather than tackling him to the ground.

However, the strong showing for tackle football participation suggests that the sport is still able to attract new players. Scott Hallenbeck, USA Football’s CEO, believes that young athletes and their parents are responding positively to the new safety strategies that the sport is employing. Teams across the country are implementing USA Football’s “Heads Up” coaching program, which teaches players how to properly tackle someone while minimizing the risk of head injury. Hallenbeck explains:

“Football participation increases…may signal that medically endorsed programs, including our Heads Up Football program and practice guidelines, are making a positive difference.”

Football at Rocky Top Sports World

Boys playing football at Rocky Top Sports World.Whether it’s flag football or tackle football, Rocky Top Sports World has everything you need to play America’s most popular sport. Our 80 acre sports campus in the Great Smoky Mountains offers six astroturf fields and one natural surface field with a press box and seating for 1,500 spectators. Throughout the year, we host a number of Gatlinburg football events, including a Thanksgiving Bowl and special camps lead by leaders in the sport, like former University of Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer and former UT running back Jabari Davis.

To learn more about Rocky Top Sports World, check out our Gatlinburg Sports Complex Facilities page!