High school sports participation falls for the first time in 30 years

Data: National Federation of State High School Associations; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Participation in high school sports dropped in 2018-19 for the first time in 30 years, according to an annual survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

By the numbers: The 2018-19 total of 7,937,491 participants was a decline of 43,395 from the year prior, when the number of high school athletes reached a record high of 7,980,886.

  • All eyes on football: Participation in 11-man football declined for the fifth straight year and reached its lowest mark (1,006,013 participants) since 1999-2000. On the flip side, participation in boys 6-, 8- and 9-player football is up, and girls 11-player football has doubled over the past 10 years.
  • Big winners this decade: Since 2012, boys and girls lacrosse is up 19%, boys soccer is up 9% and volleyball has seen growth for both genders (up 26% for boys and 8% for girls).

Most popular sports (boys):

  1. 11-player football (1,006,013)
  2. Track and field (605,354)
  3. Basketball (540,769)
  4. Baseball (482,740)
  5. Soccer (459,077)

Most popular sports (girls):

  1. Track and field (488,267)
  2. Volleyball (452,808)
  3. Basketball (399,067)
  4. Soccer (394,105)
  5. Softball (362,038)

See the raw data.