Professor: Numerous factors contribute to decline
The time adults used to spend on recreation leagues is going elsewhere, said Karen L. Barak, associate professor of health, physical education, recreation and coaching at UW-Whitewater.
You can blame work, TV, the Internet and individualism.
"There was a time when people thought the work week was going to shrink from the 40-hour standard. Instead, people are working more hours rather than less," she said.
Watching TV also seems to be more popular. With more TV channels dedicated strictly to sports broadcast, viewing choices are expansive, from pool to poker to football to soccer to cycling to logrolling, she said.
"There is some indication that while adults active participation in sport leagues is down, their involvement in sports in some other way—such as volunteering to coach a youth sport or watching sports—is up," Barak said.
The Internet has helped substitute fantasy sports leagues for the real thing.
"These activities are convenient to slip into an open time slot," Barak said.
And more people are choosing individual activities—rollerblading, walking, running—they can do at their own pace on their own time, Barak said.
Schools, meanwhile, have trimmed or eliminated physical education or after-school sports. Youth are not exposed to as many sports or might not be developing the skill level that encourages them to participate recreational sports as an adult.