Aspen Institute Releases Youth Sports Report in Hawai’i

September 12, 2019

State of Play Hawai’i shows that 26% of Native Hawaiian youth meet the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day

Contact: Jon Solomon
Editorial Director, Sports & Society Program
The Aspen Institute

Washington, D.C., September 12, 2019 – A new report released today by the Sports & Society Program at the Aspen Institute analyzes the state of youth sports in Hawai’i and offers recommendations to grow access to quality sport options for all children. State of Play Hawai’i is the product of an eight-month analysis examining how well adults in the state are serving youth through sports, regardless of zip code or ability.

The report, guided by a task force of local leaders, features results from a survey of more than 500 youth, parents and community leaders statewide, an analysis of the youth sport ecosystem in each of Hawai’i’s four counties, one big “Game Changer” opportunity, and 24 sector-specific ideas that stakeholders could adopt.

The full report is available to read here: Read the executive summary of the report here.

Among the key findings in Hawai’i:

  • Forty-nine percent of youth said they don’t play sports more because they have too much schoolwork. Twenty-six percent said they don’t feel they are good enough to play, and another 26% cited lack of time due to family responsibilities.
  • The top three sports kids said they wanted to try were snowboarding/skiing, fencing and judo/karate/kajukenbo (a hybrid martial arts offered in Hawai’i).
  • Playing with friends is the main reason kids said they like to play sports (65%). Having fun (50%) and learning new skills (42%) also rated high. Winning ranked 11th in reasons why kids like to play sports.
  • Preliminary research suggests that youth sports parents in Hawai’i spend $732 per child annually in one sport, higher than the national average. Many kids don’t last long in the sport – barely two years on average.
  • Kids are moving away from local leagues at young ages to play year-round for teams farther from home, relying almost solely on parents and cars for transportation. Eighty-nine percent of kids surveyed reported that a family member drives them to practice or games.
  • About 53% of the youth surveyed statewide said they are rarely or never asked by a teacher or coach what they want to do in class or practice. These percentages are consistent with other areas of the country where the Aspen Institute has conducted surveys of youth.
  • The state’s greatest strength is its culture and a growing desire of its kamali‘i (youth) to reconnect with tradition and language. That reconnection can lead naturally to improving physical and sports literacy in the state.

The report was commissioned by the Queen Lili`uokalani Trust. The Lili‘uokalani Trust is a private operating foundation established to fulfill the Queen’s mission to care for and ensure the wellbeing of the most vulnerable Native Hawaiian children and their ʻohana.

“We are grateful for our partnership with the Aspen Institute, and excited by the release of the State of Play Hawaiʻi Report,” said Mahina Hugo, educational innovations director at the Lili`uokalani Trust. “Our work is anchored in the notion that all stakeholders will benefit if all youth are provided access to a quality sports experience, regardless of their zip code or ability, and with a particular eye toward Native Hawaiian youth.”

The Lili’uokalani Trust will use the report to take next steps in addressing the identified recommendations in the “Call for Leadership” section. Those recommendations include incentivizing hotels and resorts to keep local kids active through sports, requiring reciprocal investments in public recreation through land-use regulations that govern development of large parcels and expanding the mixed-ability sports model in schools.

The Lili’uokalani Trust will assemble a task force to analyze the report’s findings and available resources.

State of Play Hawai’i is the Aspen Institute’s first assessment of a single U.S. state, and the eighth overall community report.

“The state of Hawai’i has long been a pioneer in sports and recreation, going back more than a century,” said Tom Farrey, executive director of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program. “From surfing to Title IX to mainstream sports, its contributions are many. We hope this report helps catalyze the next wave of innovation, helping stakeholders mobilize to best serve all children in the state, so they may receive the myriad benefits that sport participation can provide.”

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. For more information, visit

An initiative of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program, Project Play develops, applies and shares knowledge that helps stakeholders build healthy communities through sports. For more information, visit


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