High school sports participation saw its biggest increase across the country in eight years during the 2016-17 season, and girls participation reached an all-time high according to an annual survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
According to the survey, 7,963,535 athletes participated in high school sports last season, an increase of 94,635 from 2015-16. A little more than 3.4 million of those athletes were girls, up 75,971 from the prior season.
Seven of the top 10 most popular boys sports experienced increased participation, but the nation’s most played sport — football — saw a decrease of 25,503 participants. The drop off came because of a decrease in 11-man football players (25,901 fewer), as there were actually slight increases in 6- and 8-man football.
“While we are concerned when any sport experiences a decline in participation, the numbers do not substantiate that schools are dropping the sport of football,” NFHS executive director Bob Gardner said in a news release. “The NFHS and its member state high school associations have worked hard to reduce the risk of injury in high school football, and we are pleased at the continued strength of the sport across the country.”
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The decrease was roughly 2.5 percent of the sport’s more than 1 million participants, equivalent to about two players per school.
The NFHS has conducted the survey every year since 1971. The full results of each of those surveys can be found here.