Soccer bucks trend in high school participation

For the first time in 30 years, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) reported that participation in high school sports declined.

NFHS: 2018-19 High School participation survey

The total number of participants in 2018-19 was 7,937,491, a decline of 43,395 from the 2017-18 school year.

Both boys and girls soccer, however, reported increases of 2,715 and 3,623 participants, respectively. On the boys side, soccer is the fifth biggest sport with 459,077 participants, and soccer is fourth among girls with 394,105 participants.

On both the boys and girls side, only about the two-thirds of schools that sponsor basketball -- the most popular sport in terms of schools offering it -- have soccer programs, so there is a lot of room for growth.

These increases contrast with reports of declining participation numbers at the club level and suggest high school soccer is an attractive option for those interested in the sport at the high school level because of its accessibility (mostly on-site facilities) and cost (free or cheaper than club soccer).

The two sports that lost the most number of participants were 11-player football and basketball.

With 1,006,013 participants, 11-player football still is the most popular, but it came in with its lowest mark since the 1999-2000 school year. The driving factor in the decline, for now, is the smaller average number of players per program, not fewer programs.

Basketball participation was down among both boys (10,604) and girls (23,944).

Boys Participation (2018-19):

1. Football (11-player), 1,006,013.
2. Outdoor track & field, 605,354.
3. Basketball, 540,769.
4. Baseball, 482,740.
5. Soccer, 459,077

Girls Participation (2018-19):
1. Outdoor track & field, 488,267.
2. Volleyball, 452,808.
3. Basketball, 399,067.
4. Soccer, 394,105.
5. Fast-pitch softball, 362,038.

2 comments about "Soccer bucks trend in high school participation".
  1. R2 Dad, August 28, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.

    Interesting--glad to see the HS numbers continuing to climb. Curious what's happening with total enrollment on the club side, though, especially with boys 15+. What I'm seeing is lots of boys dropping out at 15 and 16, not because of "other activities" but because:

    1) no available relevant coaching from men who don't scream at players--the game isn't fun for kids when their coaches can't stop screaming at them
    2) poor refereeing, resulting in mens league-level officiating for these mid-teens--often at 15 or 16 (boys)  playing against 17/18 YOs (men).
    3) DA/USL2 teams are too expensive (fees, travel), with questionable coaching

    Another U19 club team blew up just at the start of the season (everyone has to lump together the 03s with the 02s to make numbers). And USSF wrings their hands, wondering why teen development stalls in the US. Maybe they should ask players and parents instead of their members who live in the USSF echo chamber?

  2. humble 1, August 29, 2019 at 11:39 a.m.

    Law of unintended consequences.  Speaking to boys here.  Two changes by USSF are behind this trend.  1.  Change to calendar year blew up teams in 2016.  Now those kids can play in HS again with their friends/mates - and - it is free - the travel - the food - the program - all free.  2.  For kids that don't make DA - and DA spins it this way - what chance do you think they feel they have to even make a college team?  So why not play HS ball, even if it takes you below the level you played at club?  I have heard kids / families being told if they don't play DA they won't get into a good college to play.  I have heard families rationalizing the HS v. club equation - HS always wins.

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