Based upon an annual media release from the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), it is clear that participation in sports at the high school level continues to grow at an all-time level.
For the seventh year in a row, the student-athlete participation in sports as a whole has increased by 0.67 percent from 2017 to 814,004 throughout California. The CIF media release, which was published on Aug. 1, detailed boys and girls participation in each athletic program offered in the 1,606 California-member schools and their participation for 2018 compared to previous years.
Among the sports with the most increase in participation combined between boys and girls was soccer with a 3.87 percent increase (3,890 participants) and volleyball with a 3.47 percent increase (2,292 participants) from last year.
“I am not surprised at all with the numbers especially on the girls side because the sport is growing in the United States and the popularity of the United States Women’s National Team fresh off winning the World Cup can spark a lot of interest in the game,” said Laguna Creek boys head soccer coach Wayne Alfred.
“I believe that the Sac Republic soccer team also helps too at least in Elk Grove.”
For the fourth year in a row, soccer took the top spot for girls participation throughout the state.
Where volleyball really increased in participation is on the boys side. While the girls sport grew 1.90 percent and up 858 student-athletes in total, the boys participation grew by 6.89 percent and up by 1,434 which percentage wise, was the highest increase.
“I think students are learning about the intensity volleyball has to offer and how challenging of a sport it is“,” said new Monterey Trail girls volleyball coach Melinda Doss.
“Volleyball is an exciting game to play and watch and it incorporates a total team experience alike basketball and football.”
Although soccer and volleyball among other sports saw a heavy increase in participation, not all sports saw the same increase.
As expected, boys 11-player football decreased by 3.16 percent and 2,981 players in total.
“Ever since the increased rate of concussions and player safety has become more aware football has decreased and opened the door for other sports,” Alfred said.
Since 2015, participation in football has decreased by 12,420 student-athletes.
Although football continues to decrease, and is expected to continue to drop, the sport is still the most played between boys and girls and contributes 11.2 percent of the entire student-athlete pool between girls and boys.
In addition to football, competitive swimming/diving decreased heavily in 2018 among boys and girls. Boys swimming/diving decreased by 4.59 percent (1,050 participants) and girls swimming/diving decreased by 5.08 percent (1,585 participants) which was the highest decrease of all the girls sports surveyed.
Strangely enough, participation in water polo increased as a whole by 644 participants.
Boys water polo increased by 0.93 percent and girls participation increased by 3.0 percent.
Among other sports that saw an increase was basketball with 1,798 additional participants and tennis with 611 additional participants mainly on the boys side.
Along with swimming/diving, baseball/softball decreased. Baseball suffered a minor 0.29 percent decrease from 2017 while softball decreased 3.49 percent from last year.