NATIONAL FEDERATION OF STATE HIGH SCHOOL ASSOCIATIONS
High School Sports Participation Increases for 29th Consecutive Year
FOR RELEASE 7:45 AM EST Contact: Bruce Howard
FRIDAY, AUGUST 24, 2018
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (August 24, 2018) — Led by an additional 15,009 participants in girls sports programs, the overall number of participants in high school sports increased for the 29th consecutive year in 2017-18, according to the annual High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
The number of participants in high school sports in 2017-18 reached an all-time record high of 7,979,986, according to figures from the 51 NFHS member state high school associations, which includes the District of Columbia. The number of girls participating in high school sports reached an all-time high of 3,415,306, and boys participation also set a new standard at 4,564,680.
While the number of additional participants this year (16,451) was not as substantial as the previous year (94,635), a steady increase in several boys and girls sports extended the streak to a record-breaking 29th year.
Among boys sports, soccer registered the largest gain with 6,128 additional participants. Other boys sports with sizeable gains were cross country (3,824), volleyball (3,767) and golf (2,558). For the second consecutive year, competitive spirit had the largest increase among girls sports with an additional 18,426 participants, followed by swimming and diving (4,797), lacrosse (3,431) and golf (3,176).
With 1,035,942 participants, 11-player football remains the No. 1 participatory sport for boys in high school by a large margin. Outdoor track and field is No. 2 with 600,097 participants, followed by basketball (551,373), baseball (487,097), soccer (456,362), cross country (270,095), wrestling (245,564), tennis (158,151), golf (144,024) and swimming/diving (138,935).
Outdoor track and field continues to lead the way for girls with 488,592 participants, followed by volleyball (446,583), basketball (412,407), soccer (390,482), fast-pitch softball (367,861), cross country (223,518), tennis (190,768), swimming/diving (175,594), competitive spirit (162,669) and lacrosse (96,904).
Despite remaining the top participatory sport for boys, 11-player football dropped for the second consecutive year. The decline in numbers, however, was not as high as 2016, and participation in 6-player and 8-player football continued to trend upward. In 2017, participation in 11-player football was 1,035,942, a two-percent decline of 21,465 from the previous year. The decline from 2015 to 2016 was 27,865, or 2.5 percent.
While there have been some recent reports about schools dropping the sport of football for the 2018 season because of declining numbers, the overall number of schools discontinuing 11-player football before the 2017 season was minimal – a decline of 20 schools from 14,099 to 14,079.
With 14,079 schools sponsoring 11-player football nationally, the loss of 21,465 participants amounts to 1.5 per school. And, although the 11-player numbers were down, the number of schools sponsoring 6-player football increased from 259 to 317, and school sponsorship of 8-player football increased from 841 to 847. Overall, the number of high schools sponsoring football (combining 6-, 8-, 9- and 11-player) increased by 29 schools – from 15,457 to 15,486.
The overall number of participants in football (6-, 8-, 9- and 11-player) in 2017 was 1,067,970, which includes 2,401 girls playing the various levels of the sport. The 21,465 decline in 11-player participation was evenly distributed across the country with no states reporting significant drops in football numbers.
“There are many positives about the numbers in this year’s sports participation survey,” said Karissa Niehoff, who began her duties as NFHS executive director earlier this month after eight years as executive director of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference-Connecticut Association of Schools. “First, the upward trek of interest in high school sports continued for the 29th consecutive year. The model of sports within the education-based school system continues to thrive in the United States.
“Second, we are encouraged that the decline in high school football has slowed due, in part, to our efforts in reducing the risk of injury in the sport. While there may be other reasons that students elect not to play football, we have attempted to assure student-athletes and their parents that thanks to the concussion protocols and rules in place in every state in the country, the sport of football is as safe as it ever has been.”
In addition to playing rules in place that remove an athlete from a game when a concussion in suspected, states have enacted rules that limit the amount of contact before the season and during practices. With a more directed focus on risk minimization related to concussions the past 10 years, two recent studies have revealed that the rate of concussions has decreased the past couple of years due to more stringent rules related to protecting the head.
Amazingly, this year’s survey indicated participation by high school students in 65 different sports, as well as 13 adapted sports for students with disabilities. Some of the more popular non-traditional sports were badminton (17,898), archery (10,460) and fencing (4,513), along with two relative newcomers – bass fishing and ultimate frisbee.
Some of the emerging sports during the past decade continued their rise on the charts. Lacrosse now has 210,217 combined participants (113,313 boys, 96,904 girls), and bowling is up to 60,039 participants nationwide (32,159 boys, 27,880 girls).
“It is great to see new sport opportunities created to involve as many students as possible in high school sports,” Niehoff said. “While we continue to try to make football a viable option, we understand that some parents continue to have a concern about the physical nature of the sport. Certainly, the goal is to involve more and more young people in sports and activity programs because the benefits of participating in sports and activities is the same whether it is football, baseball, lacrosse, music, band or debate.”
The top 10 states by participants remained the same; however, Ohio moved ahead of Illinois into fourth place this year. Texas and California topped the list again with 824,619 and 819,625 participants, respectively, followed by New York (378,065), Ohio (347,567), Illinois (338,848), Pennsylvania (319,867), Florida (311,361), Michigan (296,625), New Jersey (281,800) and Minnesota (240,433).
The participation survey has been compiled in its current form by the NFHS since 1971 through numbers it receives from its member state associations. The top 10 sports for boys and girls and the year-by-year participation totals are listed below. The complete 2017-18 High School Athletics Participation Survey is available via the following link: http://www.nfhs.org/ParticipationStatistics/ParticipationStatistics/
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About the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)
The NFHS, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, is the national leadership organization for high school sports and performing arts activities. Since 1920, the NFHS has led the development of education-based interscholastic sports and performing arts activities that help students succeed in their lives. The NFHS sets direction for the future by building awareness and support, improving the participation experience, establishing consistent standards and rules for competition, and helping those who oversee high school sports and activities. The NFHS writes playing rules for 16 sports for boys and girls at the high school level. Through its 50 member state associations and the District of Columbia, the NFHS reaches more than 19,500 high schools and 12 million participants in high school activity programs, including almost 8 million in high school sports. As the recognized national authority on interscholastic activity programs, the NFHS conducts national meetings; sanctions interstate events; offers online publications and services for high school coaches and officials; sponsors professional organizations for high school coaches, officials, speech and debate coaches, and music adjudicators; serves as the national source for interscholastic coach training; and serves as a national information resource of interscholastic athletics and activities. For more information, visit the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org.
MEDIA CONTACTS: Bruce Howard, 317-972-6900
Director of Publications and Communications
National Federation of State High School Associations
Chris Boone, 317-972-6900
Assistant Director of Publications and Communications
37 AHSAA Events Set for NFHS Network through August 27
Champions Challenge Classic Headlines AHSAA First Week of Prep Football Action on TV
MONTGOMERY – Raycom Sports and the NFHS Network kick off the AHSAA’s 2018-19 school year Thursday night with the first game of the 13th annual Champions Challenge Classic at Cramton Bowl. The NFHS Network plans 37 events total for the first weekend of the new school year – including middle school and junior high football and volleyball.
Raycom, which will televise live on its D-2 (Bounce) channel over its Raycom Network of stations across the state, will have Graham Dunn and Christina Chambers behind the mikes. Thursday’s football battle pits the defending Class 1A defending state champion Sweet Water Bulldogs and 2017 Class 3A semifinalist Clarke County (11-3). Friday’s final Champions Challenge contest features Thompson (12-1), a Class 7A semifinalist in 2017, and Class 7A James Clemens. Both games kick off at 7 p.m., and both will also be live-streamed over the NFHS Network’s subscriber-based network. The links can be found at www.ahsaa.com and at www.nfhsnetwork.com.
The AHSAA Radio Network will broadcast both games over its network of radio affiliates across the state and will be available via the internet via www.ahsaa.com. The Radio Network will also provide the NFHS Network audio.
The NFHS Network has eight AHSAA football games and two volleyball matches scheduled to be live-streamed Thursday night. Friday’s schedule has 18 football games scheduled and five more on Saturday. The headliner outside the Champions Challenge games is Saturday’s battle between defending Class 6A state champion Pinson Valley (15-0) and defending Class 7A champion Hoover (11-3). Kickoff for that game is set for 11 a.m. at Hoover Stadium.
Three AHSAA teams will be playing in Atlanta on Saturday with all games set for the NFHS Network thanks to the Atlanta Public School NFHS Network School Broadcast Program. Sidney Lanier plays Westlake at 2 p.m., Clay-Chalkville takes on Griffin (GA) at 4 p.m. and Central-Phenix City faces Benjamin Mays (GA) at 7 p.m.
Hoover and Vestavia Hills are scheduled to play the first varsity volleyball match of the season over the AHSAA’s NFHS Network School Broadcast Program. The Bucs and Rebs tip off Thursday at 7 p.m. at HHS. Geneva and Kinston have a match set for the NFHS Network on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Andalusia and Saraland are each broadcasting Friday’s football contest over the NFHS Network. Opelika goes to Callaway (GA) Friday with both schools also planning to live-stream the contest via the NFHS Network SBP.
NFHS Network subscribers will have access to all the games. To subscribe to the NFHS Network, click on: http://watch.nfhsnetwork.com/rewards-signup/.
The complete schedule for this weekend on the NFHS Network is listed.
NFHS NETWORK SCHEDULE OF AHSAA EVENTS
THURSDAY, August 23
VOLLEYBALL Producer Air Time
Vestavia Hills JV at Hoover JV Hoover HS SBP 5 p.m.
Vestavia Hills vs. Hoover (varsity) Hoover HS SBP 6:30 p.m.
FOOTBALL Producer Air Time
Clarke County vs. Sweet Water AHSAA/NFHS Net 7 p.m.
Brooks at Lauderdale County Brooks HS SBP 7 p.m.
Carver-Montgomery vs. Jeff Davis NFHS Montgomery Net 7 p.m.
Dothan at Enterprise Enterprise HS SBP 7 p.m.
Jasper at Cullman Cullman HS SBP 7 p.m.
Muscle Shoals at Deshler Muscle Shoals HS SBP 6:45 p.m.
Hewitt-Trussville 7th at Hoover Hoover HS SBP 5 p.m.
Hewitt-Trussville 8th at Hoover Hoover HS SBP 6:45 p.m.
FRIDAY, August 24
FOOTBALL Producer Air Time
Thompson vs. James Clemens AHSAA 7 p.m.
Andalusia at Saraland Saraland HS SBP 6:30 p.m.
Andalusia at Saraland Andalusia HS SBP 7 p.m.
Austin at Hartselle Hartselle HS SBP 7 p.m.
Blackman (TN) at Florence Florence HS SBP 6:45 p.m.
Early Co. (GA) at Eufaula Eufaula HS SBP 7 p.m.
East Limestone at Russellville Russellville HS SBP 7 p.m.
Gardendale at Mae Jemison Gardendale HS SBP 7 p.m.
Handley at LaFayette NFHS (Eagle 102.3) SBP 6:30 p.m.
Jacksonville at JB Pennington Jacksonville HS SBP 7 p.m.
Oak Mountain at Chelsea Chelsea HS SBP 7 p.m.
Opelika at Callaway (GA) Opelika HS SBP 6 p.m.
Park Crossing vs. Lee-Montgomery BTW Magnet HS SBP 7 p.m.
Red Bay at Colbert Heights Colbert Heights HS SBP 6:30 p.m.
Russell County vs. Smiths Station Smiths Station HS SBP 7 p.m.
Spain Park at Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa Hillcrest HS SBP 6:45 p.m.
Spanish Fort at McGill-Toolen Catholic Spanish Fort HS SBP 7 p.m.
Tuscaloosa County at Demopolis Demopolis HS SBP 7 p.m.
Wilcox Central at Auburn Auburn HS SBP 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, August 25
VOLLEYBALL Producer Air Time
Geneva at Kinston Geneva HS SBP 4 p.m.
FOOTBALL Producer Air Time
Briarwood at Vestavia Hills FR. Vestavia Hills HS SBP 6 p.m.
Briarwood at Vestavia Hills VAR Vestavia Hills HS SBP 7 p.m.
Central-Phenix City vs. B. Mays (GA) Atlanta PS SBP 7 p.m.
Clay-Chalkville vs. Griffin (GA) Atlanta PS SBP 4 p.m.
Pinson Valley at Hoover Hoover HS SBP 11 a.m.
Sidney Lanier at Westlake (GA) Atlanta PS SBP 2 p.m.
MONDAY, August 27
FOOTBALL Producer Air Time
Central-Phenix City at Auburn JV Auburn HS SBP 5 p.m.
MONTGOMERY, AL – Coaches and players from Sweet Water, Clarke County, Thompson and James Clemens high schools gathered Thursday at the 2018 AHSAA Champions Challenge Football Classic press conference at the AHSAA Office here. The season-opening games are set for Aug. 23-24 at Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl.
Coaches addressed the large contingent of media on hand for the AHSAA’s annual Media Day, each discussion their excitement for the upcoming football season and the opportunity to participate in the 13th annual Champions Challenge.
Clarke County and Sweet Water kick off the season on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Cramton Bowl. Class 7A top-10 teams Thompson takes on James Clemens in the big-school game on Friday night, Aug. 24, at 7 p.m. Raycom Media will televise the game live, the NFHS Network will live-stream the game and the AHSAA Radio Network will also broadcast the game over its statewide network.
Clarke County Coach Stacy Luker, who is the only head coach in the 13-year history to compete in the season-opening football classic at three different schools, said his team is glad to play in the opening game versus his alma mater Sweet Water. “I have been here twice before,” Luker said, “and the first two times was pretty tough.”
Luker, who won five state championships while serving as head coach at Sweet Water, participated in the 2011 Champions Challenge versus Hamilton and then brought Demopolis in 2016 to face Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa. Hamilton beat Sweet Water 38-35 in ’11 and Hillcrest beat Demopolis 42-7 in ’16.
“We got beat pretty good in 2016,” he said.
He has no regrets, however. His Demopolis team rebounded to win five in a row and finished 7-4 – losing two games to 7A schools. His Sweet Water team rebounded from a 38-35 loss to 4A Hamilton to win 10 games before falling in the Class 1A semifinals. His Clarke County squad is coming off an 11-3 season and reached the Class 3A semifinals for the first time in school history in Luker’s first season at the helm. The Bulldogs, moved up to 4A this season, is ranked ninth in the ASWA preseason rankings.
Pat Thompson coached with Luker as an assistant at Thomasville and Sweet Water before he ascended to head coach in 2014 when Luker left. The Bulldogs, ranked second in the ASWA preseason rankings behind Lanett, are riding a 13-game winning streak heading into this season after claiming the school’s 10th Class 1A state championship overall. Lanett moved down to from 2A this season after winning the state title last year with a 15-0 season.
Sweet Water’s defense should be strong with linebackers Jacory Brown, Chance Broussard and JahDarrius McIntosh returning. All three were on hand at Thursday’s press gathering. Clarke County was represented Thursday by returning starters Jake Anderson, Javon Ivory and Avant Law.
Thompson (12-1), coached by Mark Freeman (186-41), won the Class 7A, Region 5 regular-season championship last season going 7-0. The Warriors lost in the semifinals to Region 5 runner-up Hoover, which won the state championship the next week. Freeman’s team features one of the nation’s top quarterback prospects, Taulia Tagovailoa, who passed for a state-leading 3,820 yards and 36 TDs last season as a junior. Shad Byrd returns at running back after rushing for 1,167 yards and 18 scores. Both were on hand Thursday along with linebacker Will Conner and defensive end Eric Mizell.
James Clemens (3-7) is the state’s youngest Class 7A school, opening its doors for the first time in 2012. Coach Wade Waldrop has coached the Jets to a 30-35 overall record, including going 10-2 in 2015 and 8-4 in 2016. James Clemens fell to 3-7 season but is expected to challenge for the Class 7A, Region 8 championship in 2018.
The Jets return 2018 starting quarterback Conner Cantrell, who was forced into action when expected starter Jamil Mohammad suffered a season-ending injury. Mohammad is back and at full strength giving Waldrop what he describes as “Two great quarterbacks. That is the position that probably has the most depth heading into this season.”
Both were in attendance Thursday along with defensive lineman Daevion Davis and running back Austin McGhee.
Also on hand at the press conference was Montgomery Catholic senior cross country standout Amaris Tyynismaa, her head coach Ed Wright, Goshen volleyball coach Amy Warrick and Bob Jones swimming coach Wade Thaxton.
The three coaches discussed those seasons, which also get underway Aug. 23, and discussed their own teams’ outlooks. Tyynismaa, the most decorated AHSAA girls’ distance runner in more than 40 years, comes into the 2018 season with four straight Class 4A/5A state girls’ cross country titles and holds the record for the fastest girls’ finish in state-meet history, 17:03.4, a state record she set as an eighth grader.
She said her goal this season is to get under 17 minutes, a feat she accomplished at last year’s Footlocker national competition. Catholic’s boys and girls finished second last season. Warrick’s Goshen team finished 28-14 and was Class 2A state volleyball runner-up last season, the best finish in school history. Thaxton’s young girls’ Bob Jones swimming team had a fourth-place finish last season in Class 6A/7A, and the boys finished seventh.
AHSAA CHAMPIONS CHALLENGE HISTORY
Hewitt-Trussville 49, Pell City 10
Maplesville 20, Fyffe 7
Andalusia 34, Brooks 13
Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa 42, Demopolis 7
Hoover 23, Central-Phenix City 7
Bob Jones 37, Carver-Montgomery 30
Gordo 28, Glencoe 21
Madison Academy 19, Leeds 14
Spanish Fort 42, Stanhope Elmore 14
Opelika 20, Carver-Montgomery 16
Dadeville 14, Piedmont 8
Benjamin Russell 28, Walker 14
Straughn 35, Walter Wellborn 26
Bob Jones 23, Enterprise 20
Spanish Fort 33, Muscle Shoals 22
Central of Clay County 25, Beauregard 13
McGill-Toolen 27, Northridge 0
Hueytown 36, Thomasville 27
Hamilton 38, Sweet Water 35
Daphne 24, Clay-Chalkville 21
Opelika 34, Greenville 6
Auburn 30, Spain Park 3
Jackson 30, Trinity 8
Prattville 37, Carver-Montgomery 0
T.R. Miller 27, Leeds 7
Hoover 32, Oxford 27
Prattville vs. Oxford, canceled due to inclement weather
Prattville 36, North Gwinnett, Ga. 3
Hoover 38, UMS-Wright 0
Clay-County 41, Addison 6
ALL TIME RECORDS (2006 – 2017)
SCHOOL DIS. CL. W-L PTS OPP
Bob Jones D-8 7A 2-0 60 50
Hoover D-5 7A 2-0 61 7
Opelika D-4 6A 2-0 54 22
Spanish Fort D-1 6A 2-0 75 36
Andalusia D-2 4A 1-0 34 13
Auburn D-4 7A 1-0 30 3
Benjamin Russell D-4 6A 1-0 28 14
Central, Clay County** D-6 5A 1-0 25 13
Clay County** D-6 3A 1-0 41 6
Dadeville D-4 4A 1-0 14 8
Daphne D-1 6A 1-0 24 21
Gordo D-7 3A 1-0 28 21
Hamilton D-7 4A 1-0 38 35
Hewitt-Trussville D-5 7A 1-0 49 10
Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa D-5 6A 1-0 42 7
Hueytown D-5 5A 1-0 36 27
Jackson D-1 5A 1-0 30 8
Madison Academy D-8 3A 1-0 19 14
Maplesville D-3 1A 1-0 20 7
McGill-Toolen Catholic D-1 7A 1-0 27 0
Prattville* D-3 7A 1-0 36 3
Straughn D-2 3A 1-0 35 26
Oxford D-6 6A 0-0 0 0
Addison D-7 1A 0-1 6 41
Beauregard D-4 5A 0-1 13 25
Brooks D-7 4A 0-1 13 34
Central, Phenix City D-4 7A 0-1 7 23
Clay-Chalkville D-5 6A 0-1 21 24
Demopolis D-3 5A 0-1 7 42
Enterprise D-2 7A 0-1 20 23
Fyffe D-8 1A 0-1 7 20
MONTGOMERY – Hoover High School head football coach Josh Niblett will be the head coach for the Alabama All-Star football squad for the 32st annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game next December. The game will be played at Montgomery’s legendary Cramton Bowl on Monday night, Dec. 17 with a 6:30 p.m., kickoff. This will be the first game in the 31-year history to be played on Monday night.
Jamie Lee, Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA) made the announcement at the 2018 Champion Challenge press conference Thursday at the AHSAA office.
Niblett, who served as head coach of the Alabama All-Stars in 2009, is one of the nation’s top high school coaches. He has coached six Hoover teams to AHSAA state championships and Oneonta to one title. The Bucs have been to the state finals every year except 2015 and 2008 since Niblett took over the program.
“It was a great experience when I coached in the game in 2009,” Niblett said. “I am looking forward to the opportunity again. It is very important to high school football in this state.”
Alabama lost 42-7 last year in Hattiesburg but still holds a 22-9 edge in the annual game that has pitted the top high school senior players from Alabama and Mississippi since 1988. Mississippi has won both games played in Mississippi (2015 and 2017). Alabama has a 22-7 edge in all games played in Alabama. Piedmont’s Steve Smith was head coach in 2017.
Niblett, the son of a high school football coach, owns a 129-16 record at Hoover, the state’s largest high school. His Bucs have won 89% of their games with state titles in 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017 and finished second in 2008, 2010 and 2011. Oneonta won the 3A title in 2004 and was runner-up in 2003. His overall record is 194-48 (80%).
“Coach Niblett is one of our most outstanding high school head coaches in the nation,” said Lee.
The rest of the Alabama All-Star staff for next December’s game will be announced in the near future, Lee said. The AHSADCA, in conjunction with the Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) administers the all-star game each year.
ALABAMA-MISSISSIPPI ALL-STAR GAME HISTORY
SERIES HISTORY: Alabama has 22-9 edge
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