1,085,272 Players: Football Remains No. 1 H.S. Sport in USA

By Terence P. Jeffrey | August 26, 2016 | 5:07 PM EDT

Ron Poe Stadium in McKinney, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

(CNSNews.com) - Football remains the No. 1 high school participation sport in the United States of America, according to the new annual survey published by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

1,085,272 high school students played on their school’s 11-player tackle football team in the 2015-2016 school year, according to the survey.

The NFHS has conducted a consistent survey on athletics participation in U.S. high schools going back to the 1978-79 school year.

Since then, the actual number of high school students playing 11-player tackle football peaked in the 2008-2009 school year at 1,113,062 payers and hit a low of 887,026 in the 1992-93 school year.

But when calculated against total high school enrollment numbers published by the National Center for Educational Statistics (Table 201.20), the percentage of all high school students playing football has remained relatively steady.

In the 2015-16 school year, 6.67 percent of high school students played on their school’s 11-player football team. Back in the 1978-79 school year, the percentage was lower than that—6.39 percent.

The peak year for football participation (measured as a percentage of all U.S. high school students) was the 1989-90 school year, when approximately 7.40 percent played on their schools’ football teams.

The 1,085,272 high school students who played football in 2015-16 school year included 1,083,308 boys playing on the teams at 14,047 schools and 1,964 girls playing on the teams at 576 schools.

By themselves, the 1,083,308 high school boys who played football in the United States in the 2015 season outnumbered the boys and girls combined who played any other high school sport.

The closest competitor in the 2015-16 school year was outdoor track and field. 1,077,102 high school students (591,133 boys and 485,969 girls) participated in track and field last school year.

Basketball was the third most popular participation sport in the 2015-16 school year. 975,808 high school students played basketball last season, including 546,428 boys and 429,380 girls.

Soccer was the fourth most popular high school sport with 821,851 participants (440,322 boys and 381,529 girls); volleyball was fifth with 491,726 (436,309 girls and 55,417 boys); baseball was sixth with 490,105 (488,815 boys and 1,290 girls); cross country was seventh with 480,207 (257,691 boys and 222,516 girls); fast-pitch softball was eighth with 368,153 (366,685 girls and 1,468 boys); tennis was ninth with 341,001 (183,800 girls and 157,201 boys); and swimming and diving was tenth with 300,219 (166,747 girls and 133,470 boys).

Football, according to the annual surveys conducted by the NFHS, has been the most popular high school participation sport in every year of the 21st century.

Basketball (counting the combined numbers of boys and girls playing) held that distinction from the 1991-92 school year through the 1998-99 school year.

In 1998-99, for example, 1,006,372 high school students (549,499 boys and 456,873 girls) played on their school basketball teams. That year, 11-man tackle football teams had 984,333 students playing (983,625 boys and 798 girls).

But in the 1999-00, the number of high school students playing basketball dropped to 992,730 (541,130 boys and 451,600 girls) and the number playing football increased to 1,003,392 (1,002,734 boys and 658 girls).

Since then, the boys alone who play high school football each year have outnumbered the combined boys and girls playing any other sport.

Back in the fall of 1978, according to the Table 201.20 published by the National Center for Educational Statistics, there were approximately 15,441,000 students enrolled in grades 9 through 12 in public and private schools in the United States. According to the NFHA, that same year there were 986,984 high school students playing on their schools’ 11-player football teams. That means that 6.39 percent of high school students were playing football that year.

In the fall of 1979, there were approximately 14,916,000 students enrolled in grades 9 through 12 in the United States and 937,762 high school football players (937,677 boys and 85 girls). That meant approximately 6.29 percent of high school students were playing football that year.

That was the lowest percentage of high school students playing high school football in any year since 1978.

(In years before 1978-79, as the NHFS noted in the survey for that year, the organization conducted athletics-participation surveys that included some junior high schools as well as some high schools in Canada. From 1978-79 onward, their surveys have focused only on U.S. high schools, making their numbers from that year forward consistent.)

In the fall of 1989, the peak year for football participation as a percentage of high-school enrollment, there were 12,524,000 students enrolled in grades 9 through 12 in the United States and 926,560 playing football (926,474 boys and 86 girls). That meant approximately 7.40 percent of high school students were playing football.

In the fall of 2015, the projected enrollment for grades 9 through 12 was approximately 16,281,000 according to NCES’s Table 201.20. In the 2015-16 school year, the 1,085,272 high school students (1,083,308 boys and 1,964 girls) who played football equaled approximately 6.67 percent of all high school students.

 

 


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