1,006,013 Players: Football Remains Top Sport for High School Boys

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By Terence P. Jeffrey | August 29, 2019 | 5:13 PM EDT

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(CNSNews.com) - Eleven-player tackle football remained the top participation sport for American high school boys in the 2018-2019 school year, according to the latest annual survey published by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

In the 2018-2019 school year, 1,006,013 boys played on their high school’s 11-player tackle football team. That made last year the 20th straight in which at least 1 million American high school boys played for their school’s tackle football team.

The other nine sports that were in the Top Ten for participation by high school boys in the 2018-2019 school year were outdoor track and field (605,354 participants); basketball (540,769); baseball (482,740); soccer (459,077); cross country (269,295); wrestling (244,441); tennis (159,314); golf (143,200); and swimming and diving (136,638).

The 1,006,013 boys who played on their high school's tackle football team in the 2018-2019 school year was more than twice the 459,077 who played on their high school's soccer team.

The last year in which fewer than 1 million American boys played on their school's football team was the 1998-1999 school year, when 983,625 boys played.

Over the past two decades, the percentage of all high school students who are boys who play on their school football team has also remained relatively constant.

In each school year from 1999-2000 through 2017-2018, the number of boys on their school’s football team equaled between 6.24 percent of all high school students (the 2017-2018 school year) and 6.87 percent of all high school students (the 1999-2000 school year).

In the 1999-2000 school year, for example, there were 1,002,734 boys playing football, according to the NFHS. That same year, there were approximately 14,600,000 (male and female) students enrolled in both public and private high schools around the country, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Thus, the 1,002,734 boys who played high school football that year equaled approximately 6.87 percent of all high school students.

In 2010, 1,108,441 boys played for their high school football team and there were approximately 16,159,000 students enrolled in high schools. Thus, the 1,108,441 boys playing football equaled approximately 6.86 percent of all high school students.

In the 2017-2018 school year, the last year for which the total high school enrollment number is available, the 1,036,842 high school boys who played football equaled 6.24 percent of all high school students.

That 2017-2018 level of 6.24 percent is the lowest since 1970, when the 878,187 boys who played for their high school football teams equaled approximately 5.83 percent of the 15,053,000 students enrolled in high school.

The percentage of all high school students who were boys who played on their school’s football team peaked in the 1989-1990 school year, when it hit 7.40 percent. In each of the four school years from 1988-1989 through 1990-1991, more than 7 percent of high school students were boys who played on the football team. The percentage also exceeded 7 percent in the 1975-76 school year and the 1984-85 school year.

The NFHS first began surveying student participation in high school sports in the 1969-1970 school year. Since then, they have conducted the survey for every school year except four (1971-72; 1972-73; 1973-74; and 1976-77).

In every one of the 46 years that the NFHS has conducted its survey, football has been the top participation sport for high school boys.

In every one of the surveys from 1969-70 through 2007-2008, basketball was the second most popular participation sport for high school boys. But in the 2008-2009 survey outdoor track and field moved into second place and basketball dropped to third.

The NFHS survey also counts the high school girls who participate in 11-player tackle football. In the 2018-2019 school year, according to the survey, there were 14,247 American high schools that played the sport. At 1,918 of these schools, girls played on the football team. In total during the year, 2,404 girls participated in 11-player tackle football.

The survey also listed the number of boys playing 11-player tackle football in each state. Texas, the nation’s second most populous state (28,701,845 people in 2018), had the most boys playing high school football in the 2018-2019 school year (165,641). California, the most populous state (39,557,045 people), had the second largest number of high school boys playing football (91,305). Florida, the third most populous state (21,299,325), had the third largest number of high school boys playing football (40,361).

But Ohio—which is only the seventh most populous state (11,689,442 people), according to the Census Bureau—had the fourth largest number of boys playing football (39,794). Illinois, which is the sixth most populous state (12,741,080 people), had the fifth largest number of high school boys playing football (38,366).

Michigan, which is the 10th most populous state (9,995,915), had the sixth largest number of high school boys playing football (33,868).

And Alabama, which is the 24th most populous state (4,887,871 people), had the seventh largest number of high school boys playing football (32,366).

 

 

 

 

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