Montana Officials Worried About Participation Decline in Girls Sports
Nine years ago at Memorial Stadium in Great Falls, Montana, the girls’ track team from Anaconda High School clinched a state championship as four athletes combined to win both the 400 and 1600 relays.Simply assembling a foursome would be a major triumph for the program today.
The Anaconda girls’ program this spring had just four athletes report for opening workouts. Period. The slim turnout, along with slender girls’ numbers at other schools across the state, has the attention of officials who are worried about the future.
“It’s concerning to us,” said Mark Beckman, executive director of the Montana High School Association. “We’re going to launch an initiative to what we hope will lead to increased participation. Of course that’s in all sports.
“We want to try to make sure that student-athletes aren’t getting caught up in specializing compared to diversifying and competing in multiple sports.”
The sports choices, especially for girls, have increased. Way back when, girls played basketball or ran cross-country in the fall, played volleyball in the winter and went out for track in the spring. When volleyball and basketball flopped seasons, it didn’t affect numbers much.
But there are many more choices these days.
Softball, soccer, golf — even hockey and wrestling — are offered for girls at many places. And not just in high school. The proliferation of club sports, along with “travel teams” that often coincide, is seen by many as barrier to high participation numbers.
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