The 2016 Summer Olympics have come to an end and will be remembered as the event with awe-inspiring stories of hard work, dedication, amazing feats and chasing your dreams. During the past 16 days of the Olympics, the lessons learned span all ages, but perhaps the group with the most to gain is our youth. But did they tune in? In the first half of 2016, only 44% of youth (37% of kids, 48% of tweens, and 49% of teens) said they were interested in watching the Summer Olympics.Those numbers increased significantly as the Rio Olympics actually got under way. According to participants in our August 2016 YouthBeat survey, 65% of youth (58% of kids, 74% of tweens, and 62% of teens) said they want to watch the Summer Olympics.
Not only were youth tuning into the excitement of the event, but the stars of Rio are already having an impact on them. While athletes like Lebron James and Michael Jordan usually dominate youth’s list of favorite athletes, in our August survey medalists such Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas, and Simone Biles have made their way to the top of the list. Olympic swimmers Katie Ledecky, Lily King, and Missy Franklin also got mentions as did soccer star, Alex Morgan, and volleyball player, Kerri Walsh Jennings. And already 11% of the mentions name a member of the gold medal winning gymnastics team, the Final Five (Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, or Madison Kocian).
The Olympics leave many youth feeling hopeful that they too could someday capture a medal of their own. When asked what they want to be when they grow up, being an athlete is the second most popular career boys aspire to. For girls it is tenth. But the concentration of strong and successful women athletes being showcased on TV screens and in the news during the Olympics may leave more girls with athletic dreams of their own. That is what the United States Olympic Committee and the U.S. summer sport national governing bodies are hoping for. While 54% of youth participate in a sport, only 13% do it at an elite or highly competitive level.* The NBC Gold Map hopes to use the platform of the Olympics and the inspiring stories of its athletes to encourage youth to start their own journey in an Olympic sport, whether for fun or competitively. The website stands as a great resource for youth to learn more about each Olympic sport and how they can get involved. Here at YouthBeat, we believe anything that encourages kids, tweens, and teens to try new opportunities and chase their dreams is a worthy endeavor.
*According to YouthBeat data from January to June 2016.