Sorry for being so quiet of late. The spring season is dead ahead and I’ve been busy setting up rosters and dealing with OCD parents, nervous coaches, and every other manner of soccerati.

While I was going through our registrations for the year (almost 700 recreation registrations on our league’s 5th anniversary), I noticed a trend across our divisions that has been fairly consistent over the past few years. Our participation has been 60% male and 40% female for a while. Here is a graphical look at our Spring 2007 registrations:


There is almost no change from Under-5 up through Under-14. Is this common across other leagues? I find this an interesting paradox given how strong our national women’s program is and how passionate young female soccer fans are.

I’ve read that girls often join organized sports at an older age than boys, but we aren’t seeing that. Some studies talk about a ratio of non-school participation of 3:5 which isn’t far from our ratio of 4:6. Yet in school athletics, it’s almost equal for 8th graders.

I know there are many factors that can impact female participation in youth sports. Preponderance of male coaches, co-ed mandated teams, etc. I was just surprised at how constant our ratio was across the ages. You wouldn’t expect co-ed teams to have an impact until at least U8, yet we see a small increase in female participation after that. One section of the study caught my eye:

The average age for initial participation on an organized sports team for boys was age eight, while the mean age of entry for girls was 10. Moreover, the dropout rate of girls at younger ages was higher than that of boys, especially when co-ed composition of teams was mandated.

That is troubling. Our participation numbers still make it hard to split the teams by gender for U10 and above, though we’re getting there. I’m not sure it’s a huge impact at the younger ages. But all the same, I think I have the dropout data from previous seasons and may dig into it to see if our experience is similar.

I’m not going to try to say why I think this is happening, because I honestly don’t know. If your league has specific programs or policies in place to improve female participation, I’d love to hear them. Is this ratio common in your leagues too?
Does it concern you?