A boom in Tuscany’s population of young athletes has sports authorities enthusiastic but puzzled. While athletic participation among women and young girls is growing rapidly, participation by adolescents and males is on the decline.
An analysis of memberships conducted in 2009 by the regional committee of the Unione Italiana Sport Per tutti (Uisp) recorded an increase to 205,385 members from 198,094 in 2004. The growth was mainly among women, with 9,940 new female athletes now making up 42.5 percent of all registered members of Uisp. Yet at the same time, the number of male athletes dwindled from 121,429 to 117,970.
The committee found that the number of athletes aged five to nine had almost tripled, driven largely by growing participation among young girls. At the same time, members between the ages of 10 and 20 dropped from 36,713 to 33,049.
According to Ugo Bercigli, president of the Uisp in Tuscany, the increase in athletic participation among women reflects the Uisp’s efforts to promote equal opportunity in many sports.
‘The increase in children who play sports,’ said Gianni Salvadori, regional councilor of sports and social politics, ‘is news that should make us enthusiastic, and it is also a sign of a large investment of resources and institutional energy in schools. The abandonment of sports during adolescence, must, however, awaken a lot of worry. An abandonment,’ added Salvadori, ‘that in many cases is difficult to reverse and must stimulate institutions and associations to study, in depth, the motivations that push many young people to distance themselves from sports. Only by understanding the underlying reasons can we anticipate and avoid abandonment.’