Kids' sports in Canada: All new stats for parents

A new study reveals some interesting facts about the state of kids' sports and activities in Canada.

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Did you know: More kids are involved in dance in Canada than hockey? Photo: iStockphoto

Earlier today, the most comprehensive study on Canadian youth sports was published by a Toronto research group.

Solutions Research Group (SRG) interviewed more than 2,000 Canadian families recently and found some interesting trends and figures. And while many people think that hockey and Canada are synonymous, this study shows that parents may be shying away from the sport because of the associated costs.

Here are 10 interesting facts to come out of the study on kids’ sports in Canada:

1. Hockey is more expensive than equestrian

Equestrian is often viewed as an activity for the rich, but it turns out that hockey has become a more elitist sport in this country when it comes to cost. The average cost for a child to be involved with hockey is $1,666 annually—making it the second-most expensive organized sport in Canada. Equestrian, on the other hand, comes in third at $1,434 per year. For the record, water skiing is the most expensive sport for kids—although it’s pretty much a niche activity.

2. More Canadian kids are in dance than in hockey

Canada is best known as an international hockey powerhouse, but the price of the sport may be making it less popular amongst kids in this country. Hockey is only the fourth most popular sport in this country, with 531,000 kids participating annually. Surprisingly, more kids are involved in dance in Canada, as 625,000 kids are part of a dance program.

Read more: Mark Messier: Supporting hockey families>

3. Girls like individual sports rather than team sports

Perhaps a big reason why dance is more popular than hockey in this country is because young girls are more drawn to individual sports. According to the research in this study, more girls aged 3-17 are registered in dance, ballet and gymnastics (24 percent of all girls) than girls participating in all team sports combined (22 percent). And while you might think that girl’s hockey is exploding in popularity, it still doesn’t crack the top 10 of sports for young girls. Things like basketball, volleyball and trampoline are still ahead of it.

Read more: Are you one of those dance moms?>

4. Swimming is the most popular organized sport

This probably comes as little surprise for parents, but swimming is the most popular sport/activity amongst kids by a healthy margin. More than 1.1 million Canadian kids are part of a swimming program and it’s fairly easy to see the reasons why. Price is the biggest factor in this, as it costs $408 annually to put a child in swimming in this country—about a quarter of the cost of hockey. And since swimming lessons also provide a valuable life skill, many parents feel compelled to put their kids in the pool at a young age.

5. Soccer is most popular team sport

More than 750,000 kids are part of a soccer program, making it the most popular team activity in Canada. Soccer dominated the age demographics as well, as it was the most popular team sport for kids 3-6, 7-12 and teens 13-17. And in every region—British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada—soccer came out on top for team sports.

6. Softball is the cheapest sports to participate in

If you want to put your kid into a cheaper sport, softball is the way to go. The annual cost is $295—a fraction of what you would pay for other sports. The study also found that sports like basketball, volleyball and soccer cost 25 percent to 50 percent less than average sports—largely because there isn’t a lot of equipment involved with these activities.

7. More than 1 million kids suffer a sports-related injury each year

One in every five kids who is involved with a sport or activity will suffer an injury over the course of a year. That’s about 1.2 million kids who have anything from sprained ankles to more serious injuries like broken bones and concussions. The top three sports that cause injuries for boys are soccer, hockey and football. For girls, soccer, gymnastics and dance are the top three culprits.

Read more: Concussions: Kids should avoid texting and homework>

8. Skateboarding has the worst reputation for injuries

Even though soccer is the number one activity causing injuries for boys and girls, it doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of parents. Parents were asked which sports were likely to cause the most injuries and skateboarding came away as the top answer. Rugby, wrestling and skiing came in next on the list and trampoline even cracked the top 10.

9. Almost every kid is involved in a sport or activity
In an era where we are worried about childhood obesity and a lack of participation in our youth, we should be encouraged by some of the numbers released in this study. It suggests that 84 percent of Canadian kids between the ages of 3-17 are participating in some type of sport and 60 percent are doing it on an organized basis.

10. Kids sports is a 5.7 billion dollar industry

Every parent knows that putting their kids into organized sports and activities can be a real strain on the wallet. So it’s not surprising that this study suggests the industry is a $5.7 billion market with the average family spending about $1,000 annually for their kids to play sports.

Read more: Kids’ physical activity: Canada gets a D minus>

Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. Read all of Ian’s The Good Sport posts and follow him on Twitter @ian_mendes.

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