Michigan Again 7th for Participation

August 19, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

For the seventh straight year, Michigan ranked seventh nationally in high school sports participation, according to statistics for the 2014-15 school year released recently by the National Federation of State High School Associations. 

That level of participation continued to best Michigan’s national ranking for total number of residents of high school age, which remained ninth for the third consecutive year, and Michigan also ranked ninth or higher in participation in 25 of 28 sports in which the Michigan High School Athletic Association conducts a postseason tournament.

Michigan’s participation ranking was based on a number of 295,660, with 124,633 girls and 171,027 boys taking part, and included sports in which the MHSAA does not conduct postseason tournaments. The totals count students once for each sport in which he or she participates, meaning students who are multiple-sport athletes are counted more than once.

The state’s girls participation remained seventh nationally for the fourth consecutive year, while the boys participation figure continued to rank sixth. According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures from 2014, Michigan ranks ninth in both females and males ages 14 through 17.

Two sports improved in national ranking this school year, while four sports dropped one or two positions. However, 13 sports bested the state’s overall national participation ranking of seventh, placing sixth or higher on their respective lists.

Michigan girls volleyball improved from fifth to fourth in the national participation ranking, and girls track and field from eighth to seventh. The four sports that ranked lower for 2014-15 were boys bowling falling from second to third, girls cross country from fifth to seventh, girls swimming and diving from ninth to 10th and wrestling from seventh to eighth.

The 11 other Michigan sports that ranked sixth or higher repeated their rankings from a year ago: football (11 and 8-player combined) at sixth, boys basketball at sixth, boys golf at sixth, boys ice hockey fourth, boys skiing fourth, boys tennis fifth, girls bowling fourth, girls competitive cheer fifth, girls golf sixth, girls skiing fourth and girls tennis also remaining fourth on its national participation list. 

The other Michigan sports that equaled their 2013-14 national ranking were girls basketball at seventh, gymnastics at 12th, girls lacrosse at 13th, girls soccer at ninth, softball at seventh, baseball at seventh, boys cross country also seventh, boys lacrosse eighth, boys soccer ninth, boys swimming and diving ninth and boys track and field seventh on its list.

National participation in high school sports in 2013-14 set a record for the 26th consecutive year with 7,807,047 participants – an increase of 11,389 from the year before. Girls participation also set a record for the 26th straight year, increasing this time 20,071 participants to 3,287,735 total. Boys participation fell 8,682 participants from 2013-14, but still totaled 4,519,312 after passing 4.5 million for the first time a year ago.

Boys soccer saw the largest gain nationally with an additional 15,150 participants, and that sport ranked fifth among boys sports behind 11-player football, outdoor track and field, basketball and baseball. Football (1,083,617) remained the most-played high school sport overall. Track and field remained the most popular girls sport with 478,726 participants, with volleyball moving ahead of basketball for the second spot in the girls rankings. Soccer and softball followed at fourth and fifth, respectively, on the girls sports list.

MHSAA High School Sports Participation Continues to Exceed Population Ranking Nationally

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

September 15, 2023

Michigan continued to rank 10th nationally in high school-aged population during the 2022-23 school year and continued to best that ranking in participation in high school sports, according to the annual national participation study conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

Michigan ranked ninth for overall participation nationally, based on a total of 268,070 participants who competed in sports for which the MHSAA conducts postseason tournaments. The total counts students once for each sport played, meaning students who are multiple-sport athletes are counted more than once.

Michigan also ranked ninth nationally for both girls (111,569) and boys (156,501) participation separately, while ranking ninth for high-school aged boys population and 10th for girls according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

Michigan’s national rankings in seven sports improved from 2021-22, while nine sports saw lower national rankings than the previous year. The biggest jumps came in girls volleyball and boys soccer, which both moved up two spots – volleyball to fourth-highest participation nationally, and boys soccer to eighth. Girls golf (fourth), softball (seventh), girls track & field (seventh), girls swimming & diving and boys swimming & diving (both eighth) also moved up on their respective national lists.

Participation in several more MHSAA sports also continued to outpace the state’s rankings for high school-aged population.

For girls, participation in bowling (fourth), tennis (fourth), cross country (sixth), basketball (seventh), competitive cheer (ninth) and soccer (ninth) all ranked higher than their population listing of 10th nationally. Among boys sports, bowling (second), ice hockey (fourth), tennis (fifth), golf (fifth), basketball (sixth), track & field (sixth), cross country (seventh), football – all formats combined (seventh) and baseball (eighth) exceeded that ninth ranking for population.

Only 11 states sponsor alpine skiing, but Michigan ranked third on both the girls and boys lists for that sport. Wrestling, with boys and girls totals counted together, ranked eighth.

Participation nationally rose more than three percent from 2021-22 to 7,857,969 participants, the first upward movement in participation data since the all-time record of 7,980,886 in 2017-18, which was followed by the first decline in 30 years in 2018-19 and the two-year halt in data collection by the NFHS related to the pandemic. (The MHSAA continued to collect and report its data during this time.) The national total includes 4,529,789 boys and 3,328,180 girls, according to figures obtained from the 51 NFHS member state associations, which include the District of Columbia.

Eleven-player football remained the most popular boys sport, and most popular participation sport overall, with the total climbing back over one million participants. The total of 1,028,761 participants marked an increase of 54,969 and 5.6 percent from the previous year. This year’s increase was the first in the sport since 2013 and only the second increase since the all-time high of 1,112,303 in 2008-09. There also was a slight gain (34,935 to 35,301) in the number of boys in 6-, 8- and 9-player football.

Next on the boys list were outdoor track & field, basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, cross country, tennis, golf, and swimming & diving, respectively.

On the girls side, outdoor track and field (up 6.5 percent) and volleyball (3.6) remained in the top two spots, while basketball reclaimed the third position. Cross country ranked fourth, followed by softball, soccer, golf, tennis, swimming & diving and competitive spirit, respectively.

Texas remained atop the list of state participation with 827,446, but California closed the gap in second adding 25,000 participants to climb to 787,697. New York is third with 356,803, followed by Illinois (335,801), Ohio (323,117), Pennsylvania (316,587), Florida (297,389), New Jersey (272,159), Michigan (268,070) and Minnesota (219,094), which climbed into the top 10 past Massachusetts.

The participation survey has been compiled in its current form by the NFHS since 1971.