A decline in youth football participation had been viewed by many as a danger sign for the sport and the NFL, but last year that trend reversed, and Commissioner Roger Goodell was pleased.
Goodell noted at a New York Times forum that more young people played football in 2015 than in 2014.
“We saw a higher number of people playing the game last year on the youth level,” Goodell said.
According to USA Football, participation in flag football increased among 6-14-year-olds by 8.7 percent, and participation in tackle football increased by 1.9 percent in the same age group. That happened at a time when soccer and basketball participation declined.
The same trend was seen among high school age players, with flag football up 10.5 percent and tackle football up 2.5 percent, again a higher growth rate than basketball or soccer.
It’s worth noting that flag football participation is increasing faster than tackle football participation, which suggests that concerns about safety are real. Still, it’s a data point that suggests the future of football doesn’t fit the doom and gloom narrative.