Data on sports competition for adults can be found throughout this site and this is the page where much of it will be analyzed. This introduction includes an explanation of how the data was developed, the type of data that are available, and the limitations of the data. Analysis of specific issues can be accessed by clicking on the articles listed at the bottom of this page.
How the Data Was Developed
Ten years ago I embarked on a study of sports competition and narrowed the field of study by applying four criteria to this very broad subject.
• The study would focus on sports competition for adults over 40.
• Competition and training in these sports should demand a high level of fitness and increases the heart rate -- no golf, shuffleboard, or croquet.
• The study would be confined to competition within the United States -- for now.
• The sports had to offer an opportunity to compete for a wide range of adults. Not only should the sports be accessible to men and women, but to adults who lived in many parts of the United States.
Applying these criteria, I selected 27 sports for study. Not an easy task. Many sports hovered on the cusp of these criteria. For example, there are adults over 40 who compete in water polo, judo, and boxing, but I decided that these sports did not have quite the critical mass of athletes to be included here. I included platform tennis, but not pickleball. Subjectivity run amuck. However, I encourage participants in sports not included here to write me and make the case for their sport.
Next, I wanted to collect data which would allow me to compare and contrast participation in these sports. Because each of the sports is overseen by one, or more, "sponsoring organizations" it was difficult to find consistent data. At the grassroots level, there is little or no data. For example, how do you determine the number of adults who compete in basketball or orienteering? My solution was to focus on those adults competing in national championship events where the data was both available and reasonably consistent.
The Types of Data Available
On this site you will find a page for each of the 27 sports. The page for each sport includes the following information:
• A schedule of national championships for the coming year.
• A table for of the national championships which includes the data and location of the national championship, the name of the national champion for each gender and age-group classification and the number of competitors in each classification. For reasons explained below, the term "competitor" and the phrase "individual competing" are not always synonymous.
• A summary table showing the total number of competitors, the number of women competitors, the number of men over 60, the number of men over 70, and the number of women over 60 in the over-40 age-groups.
Limitations of the Data
Certainly those athletes competing in national championships represent only a fraction of all competitors in that sport. So, these figures are only a rough approximation of total participation. However, it does provide a means of comparing participation in the sports. In addition, there are three other reasons why the data is imprecise.
• It was necessary to estimate the average number of players on baseball, basketball, ice hockey, and soccer teams because the exact figures are, for the most part, not available. While there are nine baseball players on a team, substitutes and relief pitchers require a greater number of players to make up a team. I used an estimated average of 15 players on baseball, ice hockey, and soccer teams and 12 players on a basketball team.
• For the 27 sports, the number of men and women entered in each national championship and, in all cases, there were age-group classifications which were the basis for the data. However, there is no doubt that there were men and women over 40 who chose to compete in "open" or in skill-level classes, not in age-group classes. These numbers were difficult or impossible to obtain. In addition, some individuals choose to "play down" an age-group. For instance, a 62-year squash player can compete in the 55-59 age-group, as well as her own, often with good success.
• Sixteen sports allow an individual to compete in multiple disciplines within the sport. For example, an adult alpine skier may race Downhill, Slalom, Giant Slalom, and Super-G. A tennis players can compete in both singles and doubles. So an individual in these sports may represent multiple "competitors." On the other hand, some sports, such as soccer and weightlifting, have only one discipline and each competitor is an individual. In these cases, "competitor and "individual competing" are synonymous.
Although this approach is flawed, it does provide an interesting means of comparing participation in the 27 sports over time, and in terms of age, gender, and discipline.
For question or comments, which I welcome, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
Read Articles Below