Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Jan. 17, 2015 — The participation problem

High-school basketball is very much a democratic sport. Any school can put together a starting five with a number of substitutes and usually enough for a junior varsity and a freshman team. With coaching, some cunning, good teamwork, and communication, a team can be successful, and perhaps win a championship.

Which makes this story in yesterday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette so troubling. This is Pittsburgh, the 20th-largest city in the United States, and it’s befuddling to me that the lack of participation in the game of basketball is even an issue.

But read the story in depth. It turns out that not only is basketball participation amongst American schoolgirls down across the country, it also seems as though the high-performance opportunities for players specializing in the sport year-round aren’t just pushing the average player onto the bench; it’s pushing them off the roster altogether.

To me, that’s a shame.

What’s the value in opting out of participation altogether? I don’t see any. If you replaced, in the second half of the article, the words “field hockey” and “Futures”, or “lacrosse” and “club team” for “basketball” and “AAU,” it would raise alarm bells in the field hockey and lacrosse communities.

And it’s something to think about it. If a player participation downturn is so perceptible in a ubiquitous pursuit such as basketball, what’s going to happen to sports with twice the number of players on the team?


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