MHSAA assistant director Kathy Vruggink Westdorp is one of eight high school association leaders who have been selected to receive a Citation from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) during this summer’s annual meeting.
The Citation is one of the NFHS’ highest honors and recognizes recipients for their contributions to the NFHS, state high school associations, athletic director and coaching professions, the officiating avocation and fine arts/performing arts programs.
In addition to serving in most of those roles over more than 20 years in Grand Rapids-area schools, Westdorp has been a national leader in a number of efforts since joining the MHSAA staff during the 2003-04 school year.
She directs the MHSAA Coaches Advancement Program (CAP) and was named NFHS Coach Educator of the Year in 2015 for her leadership of the eight-level educational program that has seen nearly 16,000 coaches complete at least the first-level unit and nearly 2,300 advance through at least the program’s fourth level.
Westdorp received the MHSAA’s Women In Sports Leadership Award in 2004 and now directs that leadership program, as well as serves as lead MHSAA administrator for competitive cheer, girls gymnastics and girls lacrosse. She currently chairs the NFHS Education Committee and NFHS Girls Lacrosse Rules Committee.
“Kathy Westdorp is an incredibly hard worker, and that’s obvious in her dedication to her sports and especially coaches education,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “She’s tireless in her support for students and coaches in Michigan.”
Prior to joining the MHSAA staff, Westdorp served as a teacher, coach, athletic director, game official and school administrator. She came to the MHSAA after serving most recently as principal at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central High School.
She also previously served as athletic director at Grand Rapids Creston and as director of health and wellness programs for Grand Rapids Public Schools, taught at Grand Rapids Central and has coached basketball, field hockey, gymnastics, track & field and volleyball. Westdorp also is a past president of the Ottawa-Kent Conference.
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.