IUPUI, Grand Park release results of study on youth sports amid COVID-19 pandemic

INDIANAPOLIS -- The results of a new scientific survey of more than 10,000 people across 45 states provides insight into Americans' perceptions and expectations around a return to youth sports amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The survey was conducted as part of a collaborative research study between the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute and the Westfield-based Grand Park Research Hub, part of the Grand Park Sports Campus. Their findings were recently published in the Sports Innovation Journal.

"As we look to see youth sports reactivate across America, it is critical that we understand the mindset and expectations of those intimately involved," Westfield Mayor Andy Cook said. "To build confidence and ensure a safe return to sports, we need to know what is expected and how it aligns with health data."

"Grand Park is the largest youth sports facility in the United States. It makes sense that we, in partnership with the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute, lead in this research," said William Knox, director of the Grand Park Sports Campus. "In some cases, as we open back up, facility investments may or may not be expected. The information we have gleaned from this research is critical to event operators and organizations to create meaningful opportunities for athletes and their families to participate in sports again."

Led by David Pierce, director of the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute and an associate professor of sports management in the School of Health and Human Sciences at IUPUI, the study assessed the feelings of parents, athletes, coaches, officials and administrators toward 12 adaptations being considered and implemented by venues for restarting youth sports programs.

"COVID-19 has impacted all areas of life, and youth sports is no exception," Pierce said. "Our study's results provide youth sports facilities and event operators with data on how specific adaptations are received by stakeholders who are looking to return to youth sports in a timely but safe manner."

Among the study's findings, participants identified seven critical or expected changes as youth sports emerge amid the pandemic:

  • Venues and events should invest heavily and visibly in sanitization of facilities, playing areas and equipment -- before, during and after events.
  • Venue operators and event managers can feel confident that the recommendations provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Federation of State High School Associations to sanitize playing areas and equipment after each use will be well received and welcomed by users.
  • Promotion and monitoring of social-distancing guidelines should take place.
  • Personal contact between players should be limited.
  • Admission should be limited to those under age 65 with no underlying medical conditions.
  • It will be expected for users to complete a health and contact information questionnaire prior to entering venues in order for youth sports to return during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study also found that parents of recreational athletes viewed the adaptations in a more positive light and as a more necessary part of the youth sports experience than did parents of travel athletes. Travel sports parents demonstrated an increasing comfort level in traveling for competitions over the summer months, from 42 percent in May to 76 percent in August.

The survey was distributed to 40 youth sports organizations, which circulated the survey to their members. A total of 10,359 people from 45 states and representing at least 13 different sports completed the entire survey. Nearly 92 percent of respondents were parents, but with the option to select multiple roles, coaches (25 percent), administrators (10 percent), athletes (9 percent) and officials (3 percent) were also represented. 

The full report is available on the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute's website.

IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute

The IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute blends academic thinking with an entrepreneurial spirit to creatively solve the pressing issues in the sports industry. By partnering with a wide variety of sport organizations, SII creates project-based learning experiences to promote learning inside and outside of the classroom. The institute combines higher-education rigor with human-centered thinking to prepare students to solve tomorrow's sports industry challenges. The Sports Innovation Podcast, Sports Innovation Journal and Innovation Sprints for students are all produced by SII. Since its inception in 2015, SII has aimed to leverage faculty expertise and student creativity to make a difference in local, regional and national sports.

IU Research

IU's world-class researchers have driven innovation and creative initiatives that matter for 200 years. From curing testicular cancer to collaborating with NASA to search for life on Mars, IU has earned its reputation as a world-class research institution. Supported by $680 million last year from our partners, IU researchers are building collaborations and uncovering new solutions that improve lives in Indiana and around the globe.

Westfield and Grand Park

Westfield is located just north of Indianapolis. It is home to almost 40,000 people and the Grand Park Sports Campus, a 400-plus-acre sports complex with 31 outdoor fields, 26 baseball diamonds, a privately owned basketball facility and a 370,000-square-foot events center. The campus boasts more than 2.5 million visits a year and has spurred more than $1 billion of economic development in Westfield since its inception. Westfield is located within one day's drive of more than half of the United States population and within 40 minutes of the award-winning Indianapolis International Airport. The Grand Park Research Hub is a center focused on advancements in technology, technique and research in youth sports.

Media Contact

Andrea Zeek

Phone: 317-278-1703

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Email: anzeek@iu.edu

Vicki Duncan Gardner

City of Westfield, Indiana

Phone: 317-416-6612

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Email: vgardner@westfield.in.gov

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