Girls high-school sports participation across the country experienced its biggest one-year increase in 16 years, while football was one of the few major sports during the 2016-17 school year to see a decline in turnout.
Those are some of the most notable trends from the past school year in the recently released nationwide high school sports participation survey, conducted annually by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
More than 3.4 million girls nationwide participated in high school sports during the past school year, which was an all-time high and marked an increase of nearly 76,000 participants from the previous year. It was the biggest one-year jump in girls participation since the 2000-01 school year.
Meanwhile, nearly 26,000 fewer boys turned out for football last fall than during the 2015 season — marking a 2.4 percent decrease. Among the 10 most popular boys sports by total participation, football was one of three to experience a decline in turnout. The other two were wrestling and golf.
Football still remains the most popular boys sport by a significant margin, with approximately 1.09 million participants. That’s nearly 500,000 more participants than outdoor track and field, the second-most popular boys sport. Even when the totals for outdoor and indoor track and field are combined, football has approximately 400,000 more participants.
Basketball is the third-most popular boys sport by total participation, followed in order by baseball, soccer, cross country, wrestling, tennis, golf and swimming and diving.
Outdoor track and field had the highest turnout among all girls sports last year, with approximately 495,000 participants. Volleyball was the second-most popular girls sport, followed in order by basketball, soccer, fastpitch softball, cross country, swimming and diving, tennis, competitive spirit squads and lacrosse.
Each of the 10 most popular girls sports saw an increase in participation last year.