Michigan Steady In National Participation Figures

September 14, 2012

For the fourth straight year, Michigan ranked seventh nationally in high school sports participation, according to statistics for the 2011-12 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.

Michigan’s participation ranking was based on a number of 308,080, with 131,346 girls and 176,734 boys taking part, and included sports in which the Michigan High School Athletic Association 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.

Michigan girls participation fell one spot to seventh nationally after two straight years at sixth, while the boys participation figure again ranked sixth. According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures from 2011, Michigan continues to rank eighth in both females and males of ages 14 through 17. Girls participation also ranked seventh in 2008-09.

Three sports moved up in their rankings, while seven fell – but none more than one spot. Total, Michigan ranked eighth or higher nationally in participation in 24 of the 28 sports in which the MHSAA conducts a postseason tournament (not counting separately 8-player football).

Girls basketball and golf both rose in 2011-12, basketball to sixth and golf to fifth. Girls tennis held steady in third place, with participation in bowling, volleyball and skiing again ranked fourth. Softball and track and field remained seventh, soccer and swimming and diving both stayed at eighth, and lacrosse stayed at 12th nationally. Girls cross country, gymnastics and competitive cheer all fell one spot – cross country to seventh, cheer to fifth and gymnastics to 12th.

Nine boys sports remained in the same spots nationally, and one – wrestling – moved up one spot, to fifth. Boys bowling stayed constant at third, as did skiing and ice hockey in fourth, 11-player football and tennis in fifth, track and field and golf in sixth, baseball in seventh and cross country in ninth in their respective sport rankings. Boys Basketball fell one spot to sixth, with boys lacrosse falling one to eighth and boys soccer and swimming and diving both moving down one spot to ninth on those lists. Last school year also was the third the MHSAA has had 8-player football, and Michigan ranked 14th of 16 states for participation in that spot. 

National participation in high school sports in 2011-12 set a new record again with 7,692,520 students taking part. While boys participation nationally fell 9,419 students from 2010-11, girls participation rose 33,984 students for a record total of 3,207,533.

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.