Monday, October 21, 2019






Participation in AHSAA Sports Increased by 1.7% Overall from 2017-18 to 2018-19

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NFHS reports National Participation has 1st decline since 1988-89

MONTGOMERY – Participation in high school sports declined in 2018-19 for the first time in 30 years, according to the annual High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).  However, participation in the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) rose by 1.7% in 2018-19 over the previous year’s totals.
       The AHSAA saw a total of 146,446 students participating on team rosters in 2018-19, an increase of 2,489 student-athletes over the 143,957 reported in 2017-18. The leader was football, which saw a 4.8% rise from (30,882 in 2017-18 to 32,366 in 2018-19 – up 1,484 students. The biggest sports percentage participation increase was reported in girls’ soccer, which rose from 5,021 to 5,434 over the two-year period, a change of 413 student-athletes and an 8.2% increase.
       The NFHS, which gathers data from all 51 state associations, which includes the District of Columbia, showed the 2018-19 total of 7,937,491 participants is a decline of 43,395 from the 2017-18 school year when the number of participants in high school sports reached an all-time record high of 7,980,886. The latest year’s data was still the third-highest ever and consisted of 4,534,758 boys and 3,402,733 girls, according to the figures obtained.  The last decline in sports participation numbers occurred during the 1988-89 school year.
       “The AHSAA’s increase in participation is a credit to our coaches and administrators for providing an environment conducive to educational athletics resulting in programs where parents want their children involved,” AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said. “We are proud of our schools and believe in our mission.”
     The AHSAA’s totals for 2018-19 showed 89,626 boys’ participants and 56,820 girls’ participants, up 0.6% and 3.6%, respectively, from 2017-18. Sports with the highest participation in the AHSAA were: 1. Football (32,366); 2. Baseball (14,100); 3. Boys’ Basketball (13,648); 4. Volleyball (10,310); 5. Softball (9,752); 6. Girls’ Basketball (8,559); 7. Boys’ Outdoor Track (8,317); 8. Cheer (7,885); 9. Boys’ Soccer (6,916); 10. Girls’ Outdoor Track (5,962).
     The top gain in AHSAA boys’ sports came in wrestling, where 167 more student-athletes participated for an increase of 5.7%. Cheer, which instituted regional competition for the first time in 2018-19, saw a 7.9% rise with 574 more students participating. Boys’ soccer showed a 5.0% increase and girls’ indoor track had a 6.1% increase. Only two sports showed a decrease, baseball and boys’ tennis. Baseball, which ranked second in participation in both years, had a 712-student decrease resulting in a 11.4% drop in participation. Boys’ tennis saw a 3.5% decrease in numbers from 1,559 to 1,504.
     “We know from recent surveys that the number of kids involved in youth sports has been declining, and a decline in the number of public school students has been predicted for a number of years, so we knew our ‘streak’ might end someday,” said Dr. Karissa Niehoff, NFHS executive director addressing the national decline. “The data from this year’s survey serves as a reminder that we have to work even harder in the coming years to involve more students in these vital programs – not only athletics but performing arts programs as well.”
      The biggest contributors to the decline were the two longstanding and popular sports of football and basketball. Participation in boys’ 11-player football declined by 30,829 participants to 1,006,013 – the lowest mark since 1,002,734 in the 1999-2000 school year.
      Although the actual number of participants in boys’ 11-player football dropped for the fifth consecutive year nationally, the number of schools offering the sport remained steady. The survey indicated that 14,247 schools offer 11-player football – an increase of 168 from last year. A comparison of the figures from the past two years indicates that the average number of boys involved in 11-player football on a per-school basis dropped from 73 to 70, which would include freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams.
      While participation in boys’ 11-player football dropped in all but seven states, participation in 6-player, 8-player and 9-player gained 156 schools and 1,594 participants nationwide, with the largest increase in boys’ 8-player football from 19,554 to 20,954. In addition, in the past 10 years, participation by girls in 11-player football has doubled – from 1,249 in the 2009-10 school year to 2,404 last year.
       “The survey certainly confirms that schools are not dropping the sport of football, which is great news,” Niehoff said. “Certainly, we are concerned about the reduction in the number of boys involved in the 11-player game but are thrilled that states are finding other options by starting 6-player or 8-player football in situations where the numbers have declined.
       “While we recognize that the decline in football participation is due, in part, to concerns about the risk of injury, we continue to work with our member state associations, the nation’s high schools and other groups to make the sport as safe as possible. Every state has enacted rules that limit the amount of contact before the season and during practices, and every state has concussion protocols and laws in place, so we continue to believe that the sport is as safe as it has ever been.
        “We also are working with groups such as USA Football to reduce contact and teach proper tackling skills at the youth levels to increase the interest level as kids reach junior high school and high school.”

        The NFHS survey showed that combined basketball participation was down 23,944 (13,340 girls and 10,604 boys), and the girls basketball total of 399,067 is the lowest since the 1992-93 school year. However, the decrease in girls’ basketball participation from 430,368 in 2016-17 to 399,067 in 2018-19 is largely attributable to a 25,000 drop in Texas during that two-year period. Dismissing the Texas numbers, girls’ basketball numbers have been steady in the range of 430,000 for the past seven years.
        AHSAA basketball participation rose 1.1% from 13,386 to 13,532 for boy’ basketball and girls’ basketball rose 2.2% from 8,314 to 8,494.
        Four of the top 10 boys’ sports registered increases in participation the NFHS survey reported, topped by track and field with an additional 5,257 participants. Other top 10 boys’ sports that added participants last year were soccer (2,715), wrestling (1,877) and tennis (1,163). Among girls’ top 10 sports, volleyball was the front-runner with an additional 6,225 participants, followed by soccer (3,623) and lacrosse (3,164).
       The most significant increases from last year were registered in the adapted and Unified sports programs. The various adapted sports sponsored by schools across the country gained 4,102 participants, while Unified sports participation increased 2,938.
       With 1,006,013 participants, 11-player football remains the No. 1 participatory sport for boys in high school by a large margin. Outdoor track and field is No. 2 with 605,354 participants, followed by basketball (540,769), baseball (482,740), soccer (459,077), cross country (269,295), wrestling (247,441), tennis (159,314), golf (143,200) and swimming/diving (136,638).  

Outdoor track and field continues to lead the way for girls with 488,267 participants, followed by volleyball (452,808), basketball (399,067), soccer (394,105), fast-pitch softball (362,038), cross country (219,345), tennis (189,436), swimming/diving (173,088), competitive spirit (161,358) and lacrosse (99,750).
     While some of the traditional sports such as football, basketball and baseball have remained steady and/or experienced slight declines in the past seven years, other sports have registered significant gains since 2012. Girls’ and boys’ soccer gained 70,668 participants since 2012 (a nine percent increase) and now has a combined 853,182 participants nationwide.

      The top 10 states by participants remained the same in 2018-19. Texas and California topped the list again with 825,924 and 824,709 participants, respectively, followed by New York (369,266), Ohio (339,158), Illinois (333,838), Pennsylvania (316,429), Florida (308,173), Michigan (292,947), New Jersey (281,058) and Minnesota (240,487). Only Texas, California and Minnesota reported higher figures than the previous year.
      The participation survey has been compiled in its current form by the NFHS since 1971 through numbers it receives from its member state associations. The complete 2018-19 High School Athletics Participation Survey is available via the following link:



SPORT 2018-19 2017-18 Change % Change
Football 32,366 30,882 1,484 4.8%
Baseball 14,100 15,906 -1,806 -11.4%
Boys Basketball 13,648 13,698 -50 -0.4%
Volleyall 10,310 10,095 215 2.1%
Softball 9,752 9,698 54 0.6%
Girls Basketball 8,559 8,475 84 1.0%
Boys OD Track 8,317 8,115 202 2.5%
Cheer 7,885 7,311 574 7.9%
Boys Soccer 6,916 6,588 328 5.0%
Girls OD Track 5,962 5,669 293 5.2%
Girls Soccer 5,434 5,021 413 8.2%
Boys Cross Country 3,804 3,667 137 3.7%
Wrestling 3,080 2,913 167 5.7%
Boys ID Track 2,728 2,670 58 2.2%
Girls Cross Country 2,669 2,573 96 3.7%
Girls ID Track 2,047 1,929 118 6.1%
Girls Tennis 1,926 1,835 91 5.0%
Boys Golf 1,690 1,648 42 2.5%
Boys Tennis 1,504 1,559 -55 -3.5%
Girls Swimming 882 876 6 0.7%
Girls Golf 784 750 34 4.5%
Boys Swimming 742 716 26 3.6%
Boys Bowling 731 734 -3 -0.4%
Girls Bowling 610 629 -19 -3.0%
BOYS TOTAL 89,626 89,096 530 0.6%
GIRLS TOTAL 56,820 54,861 1,959 3.6%
OVERALL TOTAL 146,446 143,957 2,489 1.7%


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AHSAA Media Contact:                  Ron Ingram, 334-263-6994
                                                     AHSAA Director of Communications

NFHS MEDIA CONTACTS:               Bruce Howard, 317-972-6900

                                                      Director of Publications and Communications

                                                      National Federation of State High School Associations






                                                      Chris Boone, 317-972-6900

                                                      Assistant Director of Publications and Communications

                                                      National Federation of State High School Associations




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