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HS sports participation nationwide up for 28th straight year

August 7, 2017 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
High school sports participation has increased for a 28th consecutive year, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations’ annual survey.

The NFHS unveiled its latest survey on Monday, showing that 7,963,535 students play interscholastic sports nationwide. That’s up nearly 95,000 from last year’s survey and the largest one-year increase since the 2008-09 school year.

Here is more from the NFHS:

Competitive spirit registered the largest increase among girls sports with an additional 18,712 participants, followed by outdoor track and field (8,508), volleyball (8,470), soccer (6,810) and lacrosse (5,423).

“As we celebrate the 45th anniversary of Title IX this year, this report on girls participation numbers underscores the significance of that important decision in 1972,” said Bob Gardner, NFHS executive director. “It is great to see an ever-increasing number of girls taking advantage of that opportunity to compete in high school sports.”

Seven of the top 10 boys sports registered increases from the previous year, led by soccer (9,912), outdoor track and field (9,003), and cross country (8,580). Overall participation for boys in 2016-17 was 4,563,238, an increase of 18,664 from the previous year.

Participation in 11-player football was down 25,901 from the previous year, although the numbers in 6- and 8-player football were up from the 2015-16 season. The overall number of participants in football (6, 8, 9 and 11 player) in 2016-17 was 1,086,748, down 25,503 from the 1,112,251 in the 2015-16 season.

While the number of participants in high school football declined, the number of schools offering the sport increased by 52 schools in 11-player from 14,047 to 14,099 — and by nine schools in 6-, 8- and 9-player — from 1,349 to 1,358.

With 14,099 high schools offering 11-player football, the decrease of 25,901 participants amounts to fewer than two individuals (1.8) per school, and an overall decrease of 2.5 percent.

Football remains the No. 1 participatory sport for boys at the high school level by a large margin. Track and field is second with 600,136 participants, followed by basketball (550,305), baseball (491,790) and soccer (450,234).

“While we are concerned when any sport experiences a decline in participation, the numbers do not substantiate that schools are dropping the sport of football,” Gardner said. “The NFHS and its member state high school associations have worked hard to reduce the risk of injury in high school football, and we are pleased at the continued strength of the sport across the country.”


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