Improving communities through sport

2023 Sports Facility Programming Trends

Guest post written by Cameron Connelly, Content & Research Coordinator, The Sports Facilities Companies. 

Even Nostradamus himself couldn’t have predicted the infectious new variant that took over the world in the last couple years, called pickleball. But like the late French astrologer, we have some educated guesses about what we think the future holds. More specifically, what sports facility programming might look like in 2023. While we know that the future will always remain a mystery, we can safely assume that some of these trends will continue to rise this year as the world continues to make attempts to get back to “normal”. This list is a combination of trends that are rising too fast for anyone to stop and trends that might be less known but beneficial for sports facilities and the communities that they serve.

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You can’t escape it even if you wanted to. Pickleball started to drastically rise in popularity in 2021, prompting athletic facilities to convert some of their tennis courts to pickleball courts. But the sport has only continued to rise since then and there aren’t enough tennis courts in the world to keep up with the demand. Pickleball courts are small and can easily be set up on a tennis court or basketball court. It is highly likely that your facility has already started doing this, but have you set up a pickleball program or league yet? The pickleball community is a passionate and tight-knit group that loves friendly competition. If you can schedule a time and place for them to compete during the week, you will have no problem filling spots and attracting people to your sports facility or recreation center.

Non-Traditional Sports Programs

Another trend that has been slowly taking over the extra space in a number of facilities is non-traditional sports programs. A lot of sports facilities have implemented family entertainment centers (FECs) in their facilities to entertain and distract the kids aren’t participating in tournament action. While they are a fantastic addition for that purpose, they can also become a sports league on their own. FECs can come in the form of an arcade, laser tag, climbing walls, or ninja courses. Some FECs are more difficult to create a program for than others but climbing walls and ninja courses are perfect for it. Cedar Point Sports Center implemented a climbing club and youth ninja league to their usual sports programs, and both are very popular. They even have draft nights for their FEC leagues similar to their basketball and volleyball leagues.

Sports Sampling

After COVID put a pause on most team sports, it took families quite some time to feel comfortable going back. But even now, with the world returning to normal, some kids have realized in their time apart from their sport that they don’t miss it. In The Aspen Institute Project Play’s State of Play 2022, it was found that 27 percent of parents believe their child has lost interest in playing sports. While this could be caused by a number of things, it is possible that some kids just haven’t discovered a sport that they really love. A good way to introduce kids to the many options that exist is by hosting sports sampling days or weekends at your facility. It is like speed dating for sports that allow kids to experience several sports in a short time so that they can figure out which ones they might want to pursue. A child who has lost interest in playing sports might have just lost interest in playing the same sport that they have been playing for a while. However, the opportunity to learn something new and make new friends could inspire their return to sports.

Homeschool P.E. Classes

Homeschooling isn’t a new concept, but the COVID pandemic increased homeschooling’s popularity. In a Household Pulse Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, it was found that the percentage of U.S. households with school-aged children that were homeschooling increased from 5.4% to 11.1% after the pandemic. With increased safety concerns and more flexible work and school schedules, homeschooling is a great choice for a lot of families. But an important aspect of school that can be lost with homeschooling is physical education. There is much more to P.E. classes than just getting pelted with dodgeballs and presidential fitness tests. P.E. teaches kids the importance of exercise, influences them to stay active, and helps them grow in areas that normal classes don’t focus on such as their social skills and teamwork. Offering P.E. classes at your facility allows for homeschooled kids to get the exercise and education that they need while also offering their teachers (parents) a break from them for an hour.

Outdoor Exercise

What happened to jungle gyms? They used to be a playground staple but now they are just a distant memory. While the jungle gym of my childhood may be gone, there are modern solutions that mimic the jungle gym’s purpose of making exercise fun. Outdoor fitness equipment doesn’t sound as fun as jungle gyms, but they serve a similar purpose while offering more variety. In an Industry Report survey conducted by Recreation Management, one of the top three most commonly planned additions to sports and recreation centers for the past two years has been outdoor fitness equipment. Brands like ExoFit and Miracle offer solutions to the jungle gym shortage that provide fun and safe ways for kids, adults, and seniors to work out under the sun. Each company has a wide selection of products that focus on different muscle groups and movements. They also offer sets that feature several of their individual stations together with pull up bars and monkey bars connecting them to each other to reduce the amount of space they take up. Outdoor fitness equipment can make for a great playground for all ages, and they can be spread out on a trail or around a facility to influence users to walk or jog from station to station to get a full body workout.

Consider implementing some of these programming ideas at your facility this year to take advantage of their current popularity. And if you don’t have a sports facility in your community to offer these programs then it might be time to change that. The Sports Facilities Companies can help at any stage of a sports facility’s process, from planning to development to management. If you are interested in more information or you would like to work with us, feel free to contact us or give us a call at (727) 474-3845.

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