State of Play Oakland

August 24, 2022  • Sports & Society Program

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Key Points

  • Only 14% of Oakland youth receive the 60 minutes of daily physical activity recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – below the national average of 23%. If even 25% of these children became physically active, it’s estimated that $157 million in direct medical costs would be averted and 9,829 years of life would be saved.
  • Oakland girls (9%) are less likely to be sufficiently physically active than boys (19%). Girls represented only 17% of youth participants on city-run sports teams in 2019.
  • Access to quality parks and teams is unevenly distributed based on race and ethnicity. White children are three times more likely than Latino/a youth and two times more likely than Black and Asian kids to play sports on a recreation center team.
  • Archery is the No. 1 sport both boys and girls said they most want to try. Karate/mixed martial arts, roller skating, fencing, rock climbing, figure skating, gymnastics skateboarding and parkour also ranked high. We have data broken down by Oakland neighborhoods showing the sports children participate in the most and which sports they most want to try.
  • Baseball, once very popular in Oakland, did not make the top 10 sports boys want to try, surpassed by activities like parkour, surfing and mixed martial arts. Only 14% of boys said they regularly play baseball – much lower than basketball (50%), soccer (33%) and tackle football (26%).
  • Playing with friends is the No. 1 reason Oakland youth said they play sports. Winning games ranked seventh and chasing college athletic scholarships was 12th.

The Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program analyzed the landscape of youth sports in Oakland, California. State of Play Oakland is the product of a one-year analysis in the city of Oakland, in partnership with Stephen and Ayesha Curry’s Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation. The Aspen Institute identified 40 findings and made recommendations based on the unique characteristics of Oakland through youth surveys; focus-group discussions with youth, coaches, and parents and caregivers; and analysis of Oakland’s youth sports ecosystem.

State of Play Oakland is the Aspen Institute’s 11th community report. Previous reports were produced on Seattle/King County, Washington and Mobile County, Alabama; a state report on Hawai’i; regional reports on Southeast Michigan, Western New York, Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes, and Central Ohio; and local reports on Harlem, New York, Baltimore, Maryland, and Camden, New Jersey. Stakeholders in those communities have taken actions based on the recommendations and are seeing results.