Student Well-Being

High School Football Participation Rises for First Time in Five Years

By Bryan Toporek — August 22, 2014 2 min read
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Participation in high school football rose for the first time in five years during the 2013-14 school year, according to the latest High School Athletics Participation Survey from the National Federation of State High School Associations. Overall high school sports participation rose for the 25th straight year, topping out near 7.8 million.

The survey, which compiles data from the 51 state high school athletic/activity associations (including the District of Columbia), found that an all-time high of 7,795,658 student-athletes participated in some form of high school sports this past school year, an increase of 82,081 from the 2012-13 school year. That represents the highest increase since the 2009-10 school year, according to the organization.

Both boys’ and girls’ participation in 11-player football rose this past year, with 1,093,234 and 1,715 girls participating in the sport. In 2012-13, 1,086,627 boys and 1,531 girls participated in 11-player football, which means an additional 6,607 boys and 184 girls strapped on shoulder pads and hit the gridiron this past school year.

“We are pleased with the increase in participation numbers in the sport of football for the 2013-14 school year,” Bob Gardner, the NFHS executive director, said in a statement. “With the precautions that are in place nationwide to address concussions in all high school sports, including football, we have maintained that the risk of injury is as low as it ever has been. Certainly, this rise in football numbers is a confirmation of those beliefs and indicates the strong continued interest nationwide in high school football.”

Both boys’ and girls’ participation in all sports reached record levels in 2013-14. More than 4.5 million boys participated in high school sports for the first time ever (4,527,994, to be exact), breaking the old record, 4,494,406, set back in the 2010-11 school year. (In the 2012-13 school year, 4,490,854 boys participated in sports.)

Girls’ participation took an even greater jump, going from 3,222,723 in 2012-13 to 3,267,664 last school year. Some of the female sports counted by the NFHS, including competitive spirit squads, don’t count as sports under Title IX, however.

Here’s a look at the 10 most popular sports for both boys and girls in 2013-14:

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“This past year’s report on sports participation in our nation’s high schools was another great statement about the importance of these education-based programs,” Gardner said in a statement. “We are encouraged that schools are continuing to respond to the funding challenges, and are particularly pleased to see that the increase this past year was evenly distributed between boys and girls.”

Texas had the greatest number of high school student-athletes (805,299), followed by California (783,008), New York (389,475), Illinois (343,757), Ohio (325,448), Pennsylvania (317,318), Michigan (299,246), New Jersey (285,020), Florida (268,266), and Minnesota (232,909). Thirty states in total had at least 100,000 active high school student-athletes last school year.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.