Record number of girls pushes high school sports participation to all-time high

Outdoor track and field is most popular among girls while 11-player football is tops for boys, but showing a decline from past years.

Girls participation in high school sports reached an all-time high in 2016, causing the overall number of participants to increase for the 28th consecutive year, according to the annual High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

The survey used figures from the 51 NFHS member state high school associations, which includes the District of Columbia. Those stats showed the number of participants in high school sports reached an all-time high of 7,963,535. The increase of 94,635 participants from 2015-16 is the largest one-year jump in overall participation since the 2008-09 school year.

One reason for the boost is the number of girls participants reached an all-time high of 3,400,297. The increase of 75,971 from the previous year is the largest one-year jump since the 2000-01 sports participation report.

“As we celebrate the 45th anniversary of Title IX this year, this report on girls participation numbers underscores the significance of that important decision in 1972,” said Bob Gardner, NFHS executive director. “It is great to see an ever-increasing number of girls taking advantage of that opportunity to compete in high school sports.”

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The most popular sport for girls is outdoor track and field with 494,477 participants. Volleyball (444,779) and basketball (430,368) follow in nationwide participation.

For boys, 11-player football remains the most popular but participation dropped by 25,901 from a year ago despite an increase of 52 schools offering the traditional version of the sport. The overall number of participants in football (6, 8, 9 and 11 player) in 2016-17 was 1,086,748, down 25,503 from the 1,112,251 in the 2015-16 season.

The top 10 states by participants remained the same with Florida moving ahead of Michigan to seventh position this year. Texas and California topped the list again with 834,558 and 800,364 participants, respectively, followed by New York (367,849), Illinois (341,387), Ohio (340,146), Pennsylvania (319,153), Florida (310,567), Michigan (295,647), New Jersey (283,655) and Minnesota (239,289).

Here’s the full report:

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