Kids Playing Soccer

“…and the survey says…”

That youth and participant sports will bounce back with the avid support of families. That air travel to events will remain unsettling for parents. That regional competitions are the preference. That strict enforcement of social distancing guidelines is paramount. That by summer’s end, a large majority of parents and athletes will feel safe to travel for competition.

Huddle Up Group, a Phoenix-based sports consultancy business that provides resources for sports tourism organizations, has released data from a national “Return To Play” survey of nearly 2,700 respondents from across 42 states.

Highlights of the Return to Play Survey

Tee Ball

A major takeaway for Huddle Up Group CEO Jon Schmieder was “a positive note (that) nearly half of all respondents said today’s market challenges will not impact their sports travel budgets. As we have always said, parents will do everything in their power to make sure their kids have the opportunity to compete. The data here certainly supports that notion.”

Of the 2,694 unique responses, some 76 percent identified as parents of athletes, 12 percent as coaches, 5 percent as working in athletic organizations and 4 percent as athletes. They were asked to answer five specific questions:

1. How safe do you feel allowing yourself/your athlete to participate in sports at the following times?

Though only 48.5 percent feel safe at the current time, there is a gradual rise as the summer unfolds, to 61.7 percent feeling safe in June, 70.3 in July, 75.3 in August and 77.8 percent feeling safe or somewhat safe by Labor Day.

2. What are the most important factors in deciding about participation in travel sports?

Having socially distancing guidelines enforced led the list, closely followed by having personal protective equipment used. On-site temperature testing was third on the list and a distant fourth was having the event in a warmer climate.

(The City of Huntsville Parks & Recreation has released its newest guidelines for participation, mandating 6-foot social distancing from individuals not from the same family unit and encouragement to wear masks. Parks and greenways are open, and various activities like tennis, outdoor volleyball, pickleball, skateboarding and disc golf are permitted. Team sports and training are still not permitted. Aquatics centers are open with limited use, and those interested in using the facilities should familiarize themselves with the guidelines before going to the venues.)

Youth swimmer

3. When you feel it is safe to travel, what is the greatest distance with which you’re comfortable?

Today, it’s an overwhelming 82 percent that is comfortable only with a three-hour drive or less, and just 4.8 comfortable with flying. While numbers gradually rise in a comfort zone for driving trips more than three hours away – nearly a third of the respondents will be OK with that by September – only 22.2 percent say they’d be comfortable flying in September.

4. How many people do you anticipate traveling with your athlete?

Bearing out historic numbers, the average is 2.5 people accompanying an athlete, again demonstrating the value of sports tourism to a community.

5. How much has your sports travel budget been impacted by the current market conditions?

Some 48.7 percent say their budget will not be affected, though 13.9 percent say their travel budget will be decreased by 75 percent or more. That can be a boon to local economies. According to Destinations International calculations, a two-day youth tournament involving 300 athletes and attracting 1,000 visitors would provide more than $380,000 in direct spending in a community.