Good news for sports field managers--facilities will continue to be in demand because more kids than ever are playing sports, and field sports are particularly strong.

Teen sports participation at all-time high

Good news for sports field builders and managers — facilities will continue to be in demand because more kids than ever are playing sports, and field sports are particularly strong. Participation in high school sports increased for the 22nd consecutive school year in 2010-11, according to the annual High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

Based on figures from the 50 state high school athletic/activity associations, plus the District of Columbia, that are members of the NFHS, sports participation for the 2010-11 school year reached another record-breaking total of 7,667,955 participants.

Boys and girls participation figures also reached respective all-time highs with 4,494,406 boys and 3,173,549 girls participating in 2010-11 – an overall increase of 39,578 participants from 2009-10.

What’s interesting, though, is the number of field sports, or sports played on some type of turf, that continue to hold strong, as compared to the number of indoor sports or those using other facilities. The top 10 sports for boys, in terms of numbers of students participating, were (from 1-10 in ranking): 11-player football, outdoor track and field, basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, cross country, tennis, golf and swimming/diving. Among girls, the top 10 were outdoor track and field, basketball, volleyball, fast-pitch softball, soccer, cross country, tennis, swimming/diving, competitive spirit squads and lacrosse.

Cross country and outdoor track and field gained the most participants in boys sports last year, with increases of 7,340 and 7,179, respectively. Other boys sports with significant jumps were soccer (6,512), basketball (5,637) and lacrosse (5,013). Three sports with lower overall participation totals registered large percentage gains in 2010-11 – fencing (up 38 percent to 2,027 participants), weightlifting (up 12 percent to 22,161 participants) and badminton (up 9.4 percent to 4,693 participants).

Among girls sports, the emerging sport of lacrosse led the way with an additional 6,155 participants – an increase of nine percent from the previous year. With 74,927 participants nationwide, lacrosse cracked the girls Top 10 listing for the first time as it moved past golf (71,764). Outdoor track and field was close behind lacrosse with an additional 6,088 participants, followed by soccer (5,440), volleyball (5,347) and cross country (2,685).

Sports with lower overall girls participation totals that registered the largest percentage gains were wrestling (up 19.8 percent to 7,351 participants), badminton (up 14 percent to 12,083 participants) and weightlifting (up 11 percent to 8,237 participants).

Although the rise in girls participation numbers was not as large this past year (NFHS says this is caused in part by significant drops in competitive spirit numbers in two states), the percentage increase rate has more than doubled the rate for boys during the past 20 years – 63 percent to 31 percent. Twenty years ago, girls constituted 36 percent of the total number of participants; this past year, that number has climbed to 41 percent. In Oklahoma, the number of girls participants actually exceeded the number of boys this past year – 44,112 to 42,694.

The participation survey has been compiled since 1971 by the NFHS through numbers it receives from its member associations. The complete 2010-11 High School Athletics Participation Survey is by going to and clicking on “Participation Data” on the left-hand side of the page. Data from previous years is also provided.