Good News for Builders, Designers and Suppliers who work with High Schools: Teen Sports Participation is at an All-Time High

Football might have dropped in participation but competitive cheer made huge gains. But more importantly, high school sports grew by close to 100,000 students last year, to an all-time high of 7,963,535. It was the largest one-year increase in participation in eight years and shows the popularity of varsity, junior varsity and club sports at the high school level.

That’s the biggest revelation from the annual High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). And it contains some great news for ASBA members who typically work with high schools:

Indoor facility designers and builders have a reason to cheer over this one: An increase of nearly 20,000 girls participated in spirit squads. Count on that to have a beneficial effect on those who work with gymnasiums, gymnastics studios and competitive cheerleading facilities.

Among boys, football dropped in participation numbers by 25,901 from the previous year. The overall number of participants in football (6, 8, 9 and 11 player) in 2016-17 was 1,086,748, down 25,503 from the 1,112,251 in the 2015-16 season.

However, football is still the most popular sport among boys. Track and field is second with 600,136 participants, followed by basketball (550,305), baseball (491,790) and soccer (450,234). And that’s all useful information for those who design and build those facilities.

The variety of sports is also growing nationwide. This past year, the NFHS survey recorded 60 different sports offered by high schools. NFHS noted these ranged from judo and kayaking, to fencing and rugby, to snowboarding and rodeo. Some of the more popular non-traditional high school sports were badminton (17,184), archery (9,767), crew (5,179) and fencing (4,100).

And while some builders might not be excited about gains in sports like kayaking or snowboarding, it stands to reason those kids may want to work out and train for their sports (meaning weight rooms and gyms get more use), or even cross-train with other sports in the off-seasons.

This year also marks the 45th anniversary of Title IX. The NFHS noted that the 2016-17 school year showed the largest one-year increase in girls participating in sports in 16 years. In fact, it’s an all-time high of 3,400,297. The increase of 75,971 from the previous year is the largest one-year jump since the 2000-01 sports participation report – when under 300,000 girls played high school sports.

Want to download your own copy of the report and do some research? It is available at

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