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5 Things You Might Not Know About High School Sports Participation

With the new school year underway for most across the country, it’s also the start of a new high school sports season.

For many this is a highlight of the new school year. And though parents have concerns about injuries, they continue to believe the benefits of youth sports outweigh the risk of injury.

That belief can be seen in the number of players going out for high school sports. The National Federation of State High School Associations recently released the results of its annual participation survey. For the 29th consecutive year, the number of high school athletes continue to increase across the country.

Here are some striking facts and figures that came out of this year’s survey.

Girls Getting Onto The Field

The reach of girls’ sports continues to increase across the country. The number of girls playing high school sports in the U.S. is now 3,415,306. That’s the most in the history of the NFHS survey.

Boys also continued their increase in participation. The survey shows 4,565,580 boys played high school sports during the 2017-18 school year.

“There are many positives about the numbers in this year’s sports participation survey,” said NFHS executive director Karissa Niehoff. “The model of sports within the education-based school system continues to thrive in the United States.”

Boys’ Soccer, Competitive Cheerleading Are On The Rise

The boys’ sport with the biggest gain from the 2016-17 school year to this past school year is soccer. More than 6,000 additional players participated in boys’ soccer.

There were other sports with noteworthy gains as well. Cross country had an increase of more than 3,000 participants, while volleyball had a similar increase. Golf had an increase of more than 2,500 this past school year.

On the girls’ side, competitive spirit had an increase of more than 18,000 participants during the 2017-18 season. The next biggest increase was in swimming and diving, which had an increase of 4,797 last year. Lacrosse and golf each had an increase of more than 3,000 participants.

Girls Are Hitting The Track

Nearly 500,000 girls participated in track and field during the 2017-18 school year. That’s more than any other sport.

Some of the other most popular sports are ones that are familiar to many. Volleyball is the second most popular among girls’ with 446,583 participants. Basketball also eclipsed 400,000 participants with more than 412,000 girls participating. Fast-pitch softball, cross country, tennis, swimming and diving, and competitive spirit were the other sports with more than 100,000 participants nationwide.

Football Stays On Top

Though there has been much discussion about the dangers of football and dropping participation, 11-player football still remains the No. 1 sport for high school boys. However, the number of participants (1,036,842) did drop two percent from the year prior.

“We are encouraged that the decline in high school football has slowed due, in part, to our efforts in reducing the risk of injury in the sport,” Niehoff said. “While there may be other reasons that students elect not to play football, we have attempted to assure student-athletes and their parents that thanks to the concussion protocols and rules in place in every state in the country, the sport of football is as safe as it ever has been.”

Track and field remains a popular choice for boys and had 600,097 participants, which is second most of any sport. Basketball, baseball and soccer rounded out the top five of most popular boys sports.

Everything’s Bigger In Texas

The Lone Star State continues to have the most high school athletes with 824,619. California isn’t far behind, however, with 819,625 participants.

New York, Ohio and Illinois are the other top states for high school sports participation. Ohio was fifth in the 2016-17 survey but jumped Illinois into fourth place in this year’s survey.

Minnesota had 240,433 high school sports participants this past school year. That number is good enough for 10th most in the country. However, the North Star State had the highest percentage of girls participating in high school sports.

Girls make up 49 percent of the high school athletes in Minnesota. The number of female athletes in the state has risen by 17 percent in the past decade.

From GameChanger and Ryan Williamson

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