Football Is Top Sport in U.S.: 1,088,158 High School Players

By Terence P. Jeffrey | February 2, 2014 | 12:35am EST

(Wikimedia Commons photo/Mauricio Pastor)

( - The nation’s attention will be riveted tonight on MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. where 92 professional football players--46 per team--will be suited up to play Super Bowl XLVIII.

But for each of those 92 professional football players who have made it to the Super Bowl, there are approximately 11,828 students playing high school football in this country.

In the 2012-2013 school year, 14,048 U.S. high schools fielded teams to play 11-man per side American tackle football.

The 1,088,158 athletes who played on these teams in the 2012-2013 school year made football the No. 1 participation sport in the nation's high schools, according to the most recent data published by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Even leaving aside the 1,531 girls who played high school football in the 2012-2013 school year, the 1,086,627 high school boys who played football exceeded the number of boys and girls combined who participated in any other sport.

Here are the Top Ten high school sports by the number of students who participated in them in the 2012-2013 school year:

1. Football, 1,088,158 (1,086,627 boys; 1,531 girls)

2. Outdoor Track and Field, 1,053,611 (580,672 boys; 472,939 girls)

3. Basketball, 971,796 (538,676 boys; 433,120 girls)

4. Soccer, 782,514 (410,982 boys; 371,532 girls)

5. Baseball, 476,050 (474,791 boys; 1,259 girls)

6. Volleyball, 470,561 (50,353 boys; 420,208  girls)

7. Cross Country, 463,569 (249,200 boys; 214,369 girls)

8. Fast-Pitch Softball, 363,944 (1,456 boys; 362,488 girls)

9. Tennis, 338,363 (157,247 boys; 181,116 girls)

10. Swimming and Diving, 302,169 (138,177boys; 163,992 girls)

In 2012-2013, a record 7,713,577 students participated in a high school sports, up from 7,692,520 in 2011-2012.

Measured both by the overall number of players and also by the averge number of players per high school, Texas led the nation in football, with 165,359 student athletes playing football at 1,061 high schools—for an average of 156 football players per high school.

California and Arizona virtually tied for second. In California, 102,505 student athletes played football at 1,045 schools for an average of 98.09 football players per high school. In Arizona, 18,803 student athletes played at 192 high schools for an average of 97.9 per high school.

In New Jersey, where the Super Bowl is being played, 25,888 high school students played football at 346 schools in the 2012-2013 school year. That works out to about 75 per school.

In Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, 727 students played football at 12 high schools, for an average of about 61 per school.

(To see a complete list of how many students played high school football at how many schools in each state click here to see the full survey done by the National Federation of High School Associations.)

Football remained the top sport among high school athletes in the 2012-2013 school year, according to the federation, even though the number of students playing it declined for the fourth straight year.

In the 2007-2008 school year, 1,109,511 high school students played football; in 2008-2009, there were 1,113,062 players; in 2009-2010, there were 1,110,527 players; in 2010-2011, there were 1,109,836 players; and in 2011-2012, there were 1,097,597.


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