Perhaps better known for its popularity among middle-aged “weekend warriors,” bowling isn’t just for fathers in tacky shirts anymore.
Teenagers are hitting the lanes more than ever before, according to a recent annual survey that looks at sports participation in high schools nationwide.
The Aug. 24 survey from the Indianapolis-based National Federation of State High School Associations found that of all the sports surveyed, bowling showed the largest gain in the number of schools offering the sport last school year. Boys participated on bowling teams at 1,447 schools, and girls played the sport at 1,467 schools. Two hundred and ninety-one new schools added bowling.
“States that have added bowling said it’s been a good addition because participants were, in large degree, individuals who were not previously involved with athletic participation in their high school,” said Bruce Howard, a spokesman for the federation. “They have broadened the scope of interest in participating in an athletic event.”
Overall, figures collected for the survey from state high school athletic associations show high school sports participation rose by 58,456 students last year. Almost 7 million high school students played a school sport, with just more than half of all high school students participating in an athletic activity.
The 53 percent of students who played a sport is the highest percentage since the federation began doing the survey in 1971. Boys’ athletics saw a greater increase than girls’, with an increase of almost 50,000 participants. Girls’ participation increased by almost 9,000 students.
The federation represents about 18,000 high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
For boys, football remains the most popular sport, with 1,032,682 participants, followed by basketball with 544,811 players. Girls, 457,986 of them, made basketball the most popular game for females. Outdoor track and field was the second most popular sport for girls, with 418,322 athletes participating.
Other nontraditional sports that made the survey include rodeo, with 73 students, and snowboarding, with 183 high school athletes, who mainly live in Vermont.