Opinion: Diversity in Grassroots Sports
Earlier this week China announced, via a release by the National Press and Publication Administration, that Chinese children and teenagers are barred from online gaming on school days and limited to one hour a day on weekend and holiday evenings. The regulation of video games in China has been ongoing for years, this is only the most recent development. While the pipeline for the e-sports industry may be drastically affected, I would argue that the cultural intent to increase and improve the physical fitness of Chinese children and adolescents will have a substantial effect both nationally and internationally.
In 2014 researchers from Canada partnered with leading international peers to create the Global Matrix on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. Three iterations have been released, the most recent in 2018. Here is how the 49 countries fell by the average overall score of each country from the 10 measured indicators…
In reference to the countries receiving low results, Professor Mark Tremblay, President of the AHKGA and Senior Scientist at the CHEO Research Institute in Canada, stated, “Global trends, including excessive screen time, are contributing to a generation of inactive children and putting them on a dangerous path.”
China is taking an aggressive approach to mitigate the amount of screen time the youth and adolescent population is currently consuming. The intent, arguably in parallel to action taken earlier this year regarding access to tutoring services, is to allow youth more time for leisure and physical activity. This action falls directly in line with the Communist Party’s 2016 release of the “Healthy China 2030 Plan.” In Chapter 6, Section 4, the plan states an intent to promote and cultivate youth sports, so that at least three times per week young people are participating in sports of moderate intensity. Chapter 6, Section 1 also states an intent to develop and strengthen grassroots sports organizations.
Malcolm Gladwell argues in Outliers that, “Each of us comes from a culture with its own distinctive mix of strengths and weaknesses, tendencies and predispositions…Who we are cannot be separated from where we’re from.”
As China continues this path of redefining normal leisure activity for the country’s youth, I believe that the cultural ripples will spread across the globe. While more young athletes engage in grassroots sports throughout China, we will see the same take place through international Chinese communities.
Pre-pandemic (2019) the Aspen Institute reported that, across demographic breakouts in the United States, sports participation for children 13-17 was lowest amongst Asian/Pacific Islanders. Throughout the pandemic, in 2020, White children spent 174% more time playing games than Asian children.
While the esports industry may take a hit, while it may take years for the ripples to be felt within the Chinese borders or across the globe, it is my sincere belief, and hope, that the concentrated effort in China to minimize screen time and increase physical activity through grassroots sports will positively impact the number of children joining youth sports teams and diversify our athlete and fan pipeline for years to come.
At BASE Sports Group, we work with several operators who have hosted youth sports events this year. Of the 500 surveyed attendees of partnered events, 2% self-identified as Asian/Pacific Islanders, as compared to 6% of the US population.
BASE prides itself on establishing and delivering authentic brand experiences within youth sports. Diversity and inclusion are among our core values. We are proud to support and offer brands the opportunity to engage with more than 70,000 female, youth athletes and their families. We look forward to working with our operators and brand partners to maintain inclusive experiences.
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