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California high school sports participation hits all-time high

August 1, 2018 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
Sacramento, Calif. — High school sports participation continues to increase in California and is at an all-time high for the sixth consecutive year according to the 2018 California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Sports Participation Survey. Up by 2.95% since the previous survey in 2017, 808,557 student-athletes are competing in education-based athletic programs in California.

California Interscholastic Federation

“It’s encouraging to see the continued participation increase in education-based athletics,” stated CIF Executive Director Roger L. Blake “Our member schools are offering more opportunities for their students which is an important part of the overall education of our youth.”

Along with the overall participation increase in high school athletics there were a few sports that saw noticeable increases across both genders. Of the top 10 sports, swimming and diving saw the largest percentage increase, a combined 4.46% or 2,307 more participants (4.84% or 1,439 participants increase for girls; 3.94% or 868 participants increase for boys), followed by golf with a 3.29% increase or 611 more participants (5.74% or 462 participants increase for girls; 1.41% or 149 participants increase for boys). Additionally, girls’ wrestling participation continues to increase, this year by 17.33% as 781 more girls are competing in the sport for 5,286 total participants as of 2018.

Football (11-player) continues to lead the top 10 boys’ sports with 94,286 participants which decreased, by 2.87% 2,793 participants). Track and field (56,606) is the second most popular sport, which increased participation by 1.02% since 2017 followed by soccer (53,262); basketball (47,584) and baseball (44,477) rounding out the top five boys’ sports. Additionally, boys’ swimming and diving participation increased (3.94%) and took over the seventh spot, surpassing wrestling, with 22,872 participants.

For girls, soccer captured the top spot for the third consecutive year with 47,186 participants, followed by former top 10 leader track and field (46,327 participants). Volleyball still trails a third (45,139), which increased participation by 1.37% since 2017, followed by basketball (34,631) and softball (33,400). Additionally, traditional competitive cheer participation claimed the 10th spot, ousting lacrosse, with 9,212 participants in its first year as an approved CIF sport.

The CIF’s 1,606-member schools participated in the survey as part of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) nationwide survey that measures the number of students competing in sports in the country.

A chart indicating results from the last 10 participation surveys in the complete release below. Only CIF-approved sports are listed individually. Also, a summary of the top 10 sports by gender, based on participation numbers, and complete data can be found on our census page.


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