More than a million children and young people playing basketball every week - Sport England survey

Sport England’s latest Active Lives Survey shows 1.18 million children and young people are playing basketball on a weekly basis – the highest it has been in five years. 

Figures for 2021/22, the latest period assessed, illustrate a marked uplift from the COVID-affected academic year of 2020/21, when numbers were under 850,000 - and are higher than in the previous four years.  

The significant increase includes the number of children and young people (school years 1-11) taking part in basketball inside and outside of school hours. 

Nearly 800,000 boys played the game on a weekly basis, a 6.4% uplift compared to 2020/21, and 400,000 girls played basketball on a weekly basis, a 2.4% uplift.  

The school years that have seen significant increases in participation are 3-6 and 7-11, where there has been a 4.8% and 5% increase respectively, compared to 2020/21.

It should be noted that all school years have seen increases in weekly activity numbers, whether compared to the COVID academic year of 2020/21 or data sets going back to 2017/18. 

All reported ethnic groups (White British, White Other, Asian, Black, Mixed, Other ethnic group) saw increases in activity numbers in 2021/22 compared with 20/21. 

Additionally, more children and young people from low affluence families are playing basketball once a week or more – 166,400 in 20/21 to 223,100 in 21/22, however, the number is still 1.5% percentage points lower than high affluence families (351,400). 

BE CEO Stewart Kellet said:

“This really is great news for the basketball community and solid proof that since the easing of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions around sport and physical activity, the game has moved into a positive recovery stage and is engaging more young people of all backgrounds.

“The basketball community has been resilient and resourceful, and our clubs and members have been creative, well organised and determined to reengage with children and young people to get them back playing the sport they love.

“Basketball is the nation’s joint-second biggest team sport, and over a million young people are enjoying training and playing competitively in education settings and outside of school. Through our partnerships and support for local communities, we are providing more opportunities for young people to play across the country, including improving outdoor provision through our #ProjectSwish initiative, onboarding more clubs in our leagues, and highlighting the accessible 3x3 format through our #GameTime campaign. We are also delighted with the support from schools to help create the largest Jr. NBA league in the world, with over 10,000 players.

“However, the drive to create more great experiences in every community remains and we welcome partners, investors and all our schools, colleges, universities, clubs, coaches, officials, volunteers and players – whether it be through infrastructure or training – to keep basketball participation on the ascendency and more importantly give our young people an environment where they can thrive mentally and physically through the sport.”

More likely to be happy and less lonely 

Overall, Sport England reports that activity levels are now back in line with the 2018/19 academic year, the last full year before the pandemic, with 47% of children meeting the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines of taking part in an average 60 minutes or more of sport and physical activity a day. 

There’s also more evidence of children and young people getting active to help with their mental well-being and are more likely to be happy and less likely to feel lonely – often or always – than those who are less active.  



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