About 50% now think that sport is not suitable for young people

Soccer may be the most popular sport in the United States, but the nation is deeply divided over whether young people should play the tackling version of the game.

In a new study, about 45% of Americans agreed that tackle football was appropriate for children, while 50% disagreed. The rest didn’t know.

The findings come as youth participation in the approach has declined amid growing concerns about the effects of concussions on young brains, said Mariah Warner, the study’s lead author and a doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State University.

“We’ve seen kids’ soccer become a controversial topic in the United States,” Warner said.

“Football is still very popular in general, but many people think it is not suitable for children, probably for safety reasons.”

But support and resistance to kids playing tackle football is not evenly distributed across all segments of society, the study finds.

Factors such as race and ethnicity, gender, belief in traditional values, socioeconomic status, family background, and the community people grew up in were all linked to how Americans viewed football.

“Many social and psychological factors determine our perception of whether children should hit and attack each other on the football field,” said study co-author Chris Knoester, a professor of sociology at Ohio State.

“But it seems that Americans are now more wary than supporting youth football.”

The study was recently published in the journal social movements

The survey data comes from the National Sports and Society Survey (NSASS), sponsored by the Ohio State’s Sports and Society Initiative.

The survey was completed by 3,993 adults who volunteered through the American Population Panel, led by the Ohio State Center for Human Resource Research.

Participants, who live in all 50 states, completed the online survey between fall 2018 and spring 2019. Because NSASS participants are disproportionately female, white, and Midwesterner, researchers weighted the survey results to more accurately represent the U.S. population.

The participants were asked to rate the statement “Agree completely” on a scale from 1 (completely disagree) to 4 (completely agree).

football is a suitable sport for children. †

The issue divided Americans by race and class, the results showed.

Black Americans and those with no more than a high school education were not as negative about tackling soccer to children as whites and college graduates. High-income adults were more likely not to support youth football.

“For the less privileged, football is seen as one of the few ways to progress in society, which could explain why they support it for children,” Warner said.

“It’s a way to go to college and maybe even play as a pro. They want to give their children that chance. †

Men and heterosexuals were more likely to think youth soccer was appropriate, as did those with more traditionalist values: those who identified conservatively, who believed in traditional gender roles, who viewed female athletes as inferior to male athletes, who felt sports was part of being American. and those who called themselves Christians were all more likely to support kids playing football with tackle.

Beliefs about the value of sports participation played a role, the results showed. Those who agreed that sports build character and that collision sports have health benefits were more supportive.

Youth soccer support is linked to people’s formative experiences as they grow up, Knoester said, including whether the participants played themselves and whether their parents or friends were fans.

Where people lived was also important: people in the countryside were more supportive than those in the suburbs. And the likelihood of adults in the Midwest and South getting strong approval from kids playing tackle football was 27% to 39% higher than for adults living in the West.

“Being immersed in the football cultures — be it your family, your friends or your community — played an important role in your views on children and football,” Knoester said.

This study didn’t specify the age of youth soccer, but other evidence suggests Americans are far more concerned about kids under 13 playing soccer than those in high school, he says.

The largest drop in participation in tackling football was seen in children ages 6 to 12, who saw a drop of more than 20% between 2008 and 2018, according to a study.

“We are learning more and more that the earlier children injure their heads, the more serious the health effects are,” Warner said.

“Maybe that’s one of the reasons so many Americans are wary of kids playing tackle football. †

One consequence of changing attitudes among Americans could be that youth soccer is increasingly becoming a sport played primarily by people from low-income families and racial and ethnic minorities, Knoester said.

More changes could come for youth football if people’s opinions change, he said.

“The popularity of football was created by people – that means we can change it,” Knoester said. “We’ve seen the decline of sports like boxing as people’s opinions change. It can happen with youth football. †