This is the second part of a multi-part research series to analyze the state of youth sports and COVID-19’s impact. You can read the introduction and part one of the series here. This series installment will outline our discoveries from an in-depth data analysis on the return of youth sports programs who were previously disrupted. To understand this, we analyzed 44,654 programs and we ran a sentiment analysis on 18,373 social media accounts across 29 youth sports. Due to the fragmented state of the industry and the varying nature of guidelines and protocols, we’ve chosen to populate the largest sample size available through Tipevo’s patented system. Additional information about the scope of this study can be found in the ‘Data Sample Details’ paragraph at the bottom of this post.
In April 2020, conversations with our partners, national governing bodies, and youth sports organizations took a dramatic shift. The focus became, “How much disruption might the industry face and what might the long-term impacts be?” We started listening to everything that leagues, programs and participants were saying online, getting results almost in real time. By paying close attention to social media activity, website updates and changes within our digital network, we gained insight on the number of programs who have now returned to play after being disrupted initially, in addition to how they communicated their return. This post outlines our data findings and provides expert industry insight around what this could mean for the current state of youth sports.
When considering programs that have returned to activity, we first needed to define the parameters used to determine who has returned. For this specific sample, we’ve defined ‘return to activity’ as a return to in-person play. This definition does not differentiate between programs that have resumed games or tournaments and programs that have only returned to the practice setting. With these definitions we performed a positive sentiment analysis using a combination of keywords (or lack of keywords) and looked closely at post activity (or inactivity) for over 18,350 social media accounts, across 29 different youth sports in order to quantify programs that have returned to activity.
In analyzing the data associated with return to activity, we identified two key considerations that impacted a program’s ability to offer activities.
The first parameter to consider is the location, specifically the state where the program resides. In this case, each state has followed different guidelines and protocols for reopening amidst the pandemic. At present, some states have completely reopened while others have had to alter the rules and format of the game to be able to return, if at all.
- Example One: In the state of Massachusetts, soccer programs who wish to return to play have had to alter the laws of the game to maintain safety and adhere to local social distancing guidelines. Details of these changes were outlined and released in the Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association’s Return to Soccer Activities Guidelines.
- Example Two: The state of California released specific Covid-19 Interim Guidance that prohibits youth sports events and competitions for the entire state.
A second consideration, is the specific construct of each sport. Given the widespread impact of COVID-19, the following trends have appeared when comparing and segmenting our initial sample.
As youth programs across the country begin to return to activity, we’ve identified both positive and negative social media trends emerge.
Due to the nature of state guidelines and protocols for reopening, we’ve been able to identify multiple trends which have appeared in how programs are communicating with the public, specifically in regards to programming and a return to play.
With some states allowing for a return to activity quicker than others, we’ve also analyzed the amount of programs who have posted some sort of guideline or protocol, indicating that they have been able to return to play in some form. Of the 18,373 programs in our sample, 2,715 (14.8%) have posted guidelines and protocols for their members and the local youth sports community on social media.
In analyzing the data, we are also able to identify a correlation between the sport, their traditional season structure and the amount of external communication utilizing social media.
While youth sports programs can use social media for a variety of reasons, we are able to compare and reach conclusions based on the previous and current data available. If a program has communicated something positive in nature (whether celebrating a return to activity, open registration or welcoming the fall), we can conclude that they have been able to move forward with programming in some capacity. On the flip side, if a program is communicating something negative, we can conclude that they have either been interrupted or have yet to return to activity all together. Of the 18,3737 social media accounts (and 27,200 posts) sampled, we can see that 52.6% of programs are communicating positively while 5% of programs are associated with a negative sentiment. In addition, 42.3% of programs were qualified as not having a positive or negative sentiment.