Preteens with higher levels of fitness and sports participation performed better in the classroom.

Two studies say continued growth of fields industry

Schools are out right now, which means that while high school coaches may be relaxing, they’re also thinking ahead to September, and to recruitment efforts for the coming academic year.

The good news? If last year is anything to go by, participation in sports will be strong. Last year’s National Federation for State High School Associations (NFHS) 2009-2010 High School Athletics Participation Summary, showed that a total of 7,628,377 students (4,455,740 boys and 3,172,637 girls) participated in high school sports.  The 2008-2009 figures showed 7,536,753 total students (4,422,662 boys and 3,114,091 girls).

Even better news? Much of that growth occurred in sports that take place on fields: Among the top 10 most popular sports for boys (in terms of numbers of athletes participating) were (1) football, (2) outdoor track and field, (4) baseball, and (5) soccer. For girls, the top 10 were (1) outdoor track and field, (4) softball (fast-pitch), and (5) soccer. (Information on these studies can be found at

Even better news, and something that will play well to parents, are some facts that were recently announced by the American College of Sports Medicine and by Exercise Is Medicine: Preteens in Portugal with higher levels of fitness and sports participation performed better in the classroom. The association was stronger for students who played more sports or who participated over a longer period of time, particularly girls.

Students were measured for physical fitness, aerobic capacity and percent body fat. They answered questionnaires about their participation in school sports or youth sports leagues and clubs over the past three years. Academic achievement was measured by averaging the final year grades in compulsory classes. Researchers found that boys reported significantly higher levels of sports participation, and for a longer period, than girls. (information on this study is available at

Of course, the combination of more positive publicity for sports, and an ever-increasing participation trend only drives home the need to keep facilities in shape for the coming year. The American Sports Builders Association has copies of its book, Sports Fields: A Construction and Maintenance Manual, available for $44.95 at the website, The book is available in hard copy, or it can be ordered electronically to save on shipping costs.