The number of boys participating in high school sports still leads the number of girls, but the number of girls has been on the rise for 23 years straight. When the participation survey was first done, 1971, there were more than 3 million boys participating in high school sports — and fewer than 300,000 girls.
Growth in girls sports outweighs poor showing from boys
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) just released its annual Sports Participation Survey, which as it has every year for more than two decades, shows more kids playing sports than the previous year.
But there’s a twist to the 2011-12 academic year’s all-time high of 7,692,520 participants — the gain is attributable to a significant increase among girls’ participation (an additional 33,984) that more than made up for a 9,419-participant drop in the boys’ figures.
The number of boys participating in high school sports (4,484,987) still leads the number of girls (3,207,533), but the number of girls has been on the rise for 23 years straight. (Want some interesting trivia? When the participation survey was first done, 1971, there were over 3 million boys participating in high school sports — and under 300,000 girls.)
In the 2011-2012 academic year, seven of the top 10 boys’ sports registered drops in participation, with 11-player football, outdoor track and field, basketball, wrestling, tennis, golf, and swimming and diving all down from last year. Only three sports in that top 10 (baseball, soccer and cross country) showed increases.
Outdoor track and field, basketball, and volleyball continued to be the top three participatory sports for girls, with volleyball up by 9,571 participants from 2010-11. Soccer surpassed fast-pitch softball as the fourth most-popular girls sport, up 9,419 from last year, while cross country, tennis, swimming/diving (counted as one sport), competitive spirit squads and lacrosse completed the top 10. Along with soccer and volleyball, cross country, competitive spirit squads and lacrosse all had increased participation from 2010-11. (The other five sports in the girls’ top 10 — tennis, swimming/diving, track and field, basketball and softball — showed incremental drops).
Some sports made surprising gains. Lacrosse, which ranks No. 11 in participation among boys’ sports, topped the 100,000 mark with about 5,000 additional participants. Wrestling continued its rise in popularity among girls, with almost 1,000 additional participants up to 8,235.
The complete 2011-12 High School Athletics Participation Survey is available as a free download on the NFHS Web site at www.nfhs.org. Interactive results, which can be sorted by year, sport, state and more, are also available