Survey: High school sports participation declines


High school football numbers fall for fifth-straight year

For the first time in 30 years, national participation in high school athletics has declined. 

On Monday, the National Federation of State High School Associations released the results of its 2018-19 survey where 7,937,491 students said they participate in a state-sanctioned high school sport. That number is down 43,395 from the 2017-18 survey, where a record of 7,980,886 students said they participated in a high school sport. 

The NFHS oversees 50 state associations and the District of Columbia with more than 19,500 high schools.  

According to the NFHS, the biggest declines were football and basketball. Boys participating in 11-player football fell by 30,829 participants. It’s the lowest total since 1999-2000 and the fifth year in a row football participation numbers dropped. 

“While we recognize that the decline in football participation is due, in part, to concerns about the risk of injury, we continue to work with our member state associations, the nation’s high schools and other groups to make the sport as safe as possible,” NFHS Executive Director Dr. Karissa Niehoff said in a news release. “The data from this year’s survey serves as a reminder that we have to work even harder in the coming years to involve more students in these vital programs – not only athletics but performing arts programs as well.”  

There were 70 different sports students indicated participation in, including 14 adapted sports for students with disabilities. 

Only students in Texas, California and Minnesota reported higher participation numbers than the previous year. 

In South Dakota, there were 29,718 participants in state-sanctioned high school sports 2018-19. It was a drop of .29 percent from the 2017-18 school year. In the survey, a three-sport athlete is counted three times.   

You can see the full survey results, as well as past survey results from 1969-2019, on the NFHS website.

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