Laila Ali Advocates to Close the Play Equity Gap

LOS ANGELES (Nov 9, 2020) – Within youth sports in Los Angeles County, research released today shows girls’ participation continues to grow and the participation rate of girls and boys in 17 of 23 sports surveyed is higher across Los Angeles than in the nation as a whole.

The LA84 Foundation has released the results of the 2020 Los Angeles County Youth Sports Participation Survey for Play Equity. This comprehensive study is the latest biennial report assessing youth sports that the LA84 Foundation launched in 2016. It provides both aggregated and sport-by-sport data about the more than 1.2 million youngsters – ages 6 through 17 – who play sports in LA County.

The LA84 Foundation releases this report in an environment where the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) recently announced it will allow coaches to begin directing voluntary on-campus sports conditioning workouts outdoors starting today, under strict safety measures. Coaches have been unable to work in person with athletes since LAUSD shut down campuses in March.

In addition to the positive information the data reveals from the 2020 Los Angeles County Youth Sports Participation Survey, there are also signs that as a community, we must intensify our collective efforts to close the Play Equity gap – the widening distance between the kids and families who can afford to participate in organized youth sports programs and those who cannot.

The Play Equity Fund has teamed with Laila Ali – TV host, mother of two, four-time undefeated boxing world champion, and fitness & wellness icon – to advocate for closing the gap that exists in access to youth sports in this video:

In March – with campuses closed – Gov. Gavin Newsom waived the minimum number of P.E. minutes that schools are required to offer. Previously, the law required students receive 200 minutes of physical education every 10 days in elementary school, and 400 minutes every 10 days in middle and high school. Since March, P.E. teachers have searched for creative ways to keep students physically active in an online setting during the pandemic when students are dealing with more stress and uncertainty.

Data shows the lack of equal access to sports for kids is a crisis that continues to grow in Los Angeles County. The percentage of active kids from low-income families dropped, while the percentage of parents voicing concerns about the cost of youth sports participation has increased.

The 2020 report traces the evolution of youth sports in Los Angeles over the past half-decade. This report offers an opportunity to view youth sports since 2016 through several lenses including race, gender, age, ability, facility type, type of participation and family income.

This detailed research is a valuable tool, and the data that emerges provides a clear indication of promising trends across Los Angeles communities, as well as areas where attention is needed and significant progress must still be made.

“The LA84 Foundation and Play Equity Fund invests in this research because we are committed to finding solutions to the challenges our communities are facing,” said Renata Simril, President & CEO of the LA84 Foundation, and the Play Equity Fund. “Research clearly shows the positive impact that sports and structured play have in kids’ lives. The data in this report indicates that while kids from more affluent families are able to enjoy the benefits of sports participation, there are barriers for kids who come from lower-income homes. Equal access to sports for kids is a social justice issue.”

  • There has been an increase in girls’ sport participation, with 82% of girls now taking part, compared to 73% in the 2016 survey. Similarly, the percentage of all young people playing sports has increased slightly from 2016 and now stands at 82.7%. The participation rate in 17 of the 23 sports surveyed is higher across Los Angeles County for boys and girls than in the nation.
  • Kids from households with annual incomes greater than $150,000 participate in sports at a rate of 93%, while 68% of kids from households earning below $35,000 play sports. Similar to 2018, “I wish more sports were available at my child’s / children’s school” is the most agreed with statement in the survey among all parents of youth in Los Angeles County.
  • Active youth from households with an annual income of $35k or less increased their participation at schools from 2016 (36%) to 2020 (43%). These findings emphasize the importance of schools as a key source of physical activity for children from lower-income households.

There is also the prospect of these discouraging trends increasing. The COVID-19 crisis and the related financial hardships will likely combine to widen the Play Equity gap. In the decade between the 2008 economic downturn and 2018, youth sports participation dropped for kids ages 6 to 12, according to data from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

Budget deficits in public education resulted in the elimination of enrichment programs, including sports and after-school structured play programs. The LA84 Foundation and the Play Equity Fund, leaders in the Play Equity Movement, are committed to facing these challenges and reversing these trends. Youth sports advocates do not have to accept a landscape characterized by restricted sports access.

The LA84 Foundation commissioned Sports Marketing Surveys USA (SMS USA) to conduct the survey, publishing these results first in 2016. The report gave a comprehensive view of youth sports in LA.

The survey was replicated in 2018 to update results and trends, with new questions added to obtain insights on how youth sports participation in Los Angeles is affected by socioeconomic inequity. In early 2020, the LA84 Foundation again commissioned SMS USA to further measure youth sports trends in evaluating perceptions towards cost, availability, and access of sports by LA County households, particularly those more affected by inequity.

To achieve a representative sample, a target quota of completed surveys for each of the five regions of LA County (North, South, East, West, Metro) was established. From the 2020 Survey, while girls’ physical activity has increased, male youth have decreased from 88% in 2016 to 84% in 2020. However, girls’ participation rate (82%) still slightly trails that of boys overall. Swimming has the highest participation rate among youth ages 6-17 in Los Angeles County, with 25% reporting participation.

About the LA84 Foundation
The LA84 Foundation is a nationally recognized leader in support of youth sport programs and public education about the role of sports in positive youth development. The foundation has supported thousands of Southern California youth sports organizations through grant making and funding facilities and fields of play, while also training coaches, commissioning research, convening conferences and acting as a national thought leader on important issues in the youth sports industry. LA84 levels the playing field to ensure all youth have access and opportunity despite economics, gender or ability, while elevating the field of youth sports as an integral pathway to lifelong well-being. To learn more, visit and @LA84Foundation on Twitter and Instagram.

About the Play Equity Fund
A 501(c)3 public charity, the Play Equity Fund was established by the LA84 Foundation in 2014 and is focused on bringing the transformational power of sport and play to all children, regardless of their race, gender, zip code or socioeconomic status. The Play Equity Fund achieves this by raising awareness of inequities, supporting the sports-based youth development ecosystem for greater impact, and developing partnerships to advocate for funding and sustainable solutions to ensure kids have access and opportunities to pathways for lifelong well-being. To learn more, visit, or @PlayEquityFund on Twitter and Instagram.

About Sports Marketing Surveys USA
Since 1985, Sports Marketing Surveys USA (SMS USA) had led the way in being the informed, experienced and uniquely positioned source to assist with any custom research projects. SMS USA conducts quantitative and qualitative marketing research and information for many of the leading sports manufacturers and organizations throughout the industry.