Win or not, school sports of any kind is fun and brings out the best in everybody.
With all the talk of high school opening back up, it got me to thinking about sports. As a former student athlete myself, I enjoyed that part of my high school experience – There is something very special about being on the field on a Friday or Saturday night and calling the plays to your teammates. After all of the hard work during those dreaded “2 a days” in the heat of the summer now the fun begins! There really is no substitution for the life lessons learned from competition. Often times, the lessons learned from failure are as valuable as those from winning!! And as a Dad, I REALLY enjoyed watching my girls “compete” on the ballfield. Watching them grow was an absolute pleasure. I’m a huge supporter of “safe” sports for the kids, and hope things can work out this year for all of the student athletes to be able to participate-even if that means moving to later in the year. With nearly 8 million children involved nationwide, it’s important they get a chance to “play” and compete at some point in the year! I dug around the internet, and found some interesting statistics on sports participation, the most popular sports played and some amazing stats on those who are good enough to compete in college, and then the “super athletes” who go on to the pros. It’s important to remember, it’s not just the competition outcomes, or the future salaries – for most, it’s about comradery, leadership, teamwork, and just plain old FUN! Enjoy, and thanks to stadiumtalk.com, NFHS and businessinsider.com for the numbers and info. Here’s some fun music from John Fogerty to enjoy while you read.
- This fall’s high school enrollment will be approximately 16.89 million students in 20,000 public, private and charter schools.
- Nearly eight million students will plan to participate in high school athletics in the United States. High school sports participation has steadily increased over the past 30 years, with a small drop in 2018. The balance of students will also connect to in-school activities through music, drama, art, community service groups, debate, work and special interest groups, In the small town I live in, almost 50% of the student body is involved on a given Friday night!
- Studies show student athletes manifest stronger peer relationships, better attachment with adults, higher self-esteem, a closer sense of family, and participate more in volunteerism. They are less likely to engage in high risk behavior and have a greater sense of initiative, persistence and personal responsibility.
- The earliest sport in the history of the world, track (and field) is the #1 most popular high school sport in America with 1,093,621 total participants. Just as the Greeks of the first Olympics searched for answers to life’s biggest questions, the students of today will be the seekers of solutions for tomorrow – run Forest, run!
- One of the smallest HS sports, is Alpine Skiing with a total of 10,099 boys and girls participants in just 11 states (remember, snow is important here). Teeth chattering cold, windy conditions and going straight down a giant slalom at 60+ MPH “may” have something to do with the numbers. Yikes!
- Moving indoors, the hottest and fastest growing HS sport – is esports. Growing ten- fold each year, and now in over 1,200 high schools, esports is a competitive and fun place for the kids who don’t like to catch, kick, run or throw. (Studies show over 500K people “watch” eports competitions, with more to come).
- Think competitive dance is a joke? Tell that to the 90-plus dance teams performing for the national HS championship at the University of North Texas in March 2020. Teams (which sometimes can have up to 75 members) will represent high schools, middle schools, colleges, even Japan, attracting over 10K kids nationwide.
- Also clocking in at the 10K participation number is archery. Popular in seven states, those who are expert marksmen and women with eagle eyes see a bow and arrow as the ideal tool to score points for their school. Bring your own apples.
- Not just your grandparents’ Sunday afternoon backyard game, badminton, played by over 18,000 student athletes, became an official Olympic sport at the 1992 games in Barcelona. Elite players have speed, agility, strength and flexibility.
- If you’re a girl over 5 feet, or a guy taller than 5-foot-7, you’re probably out of luck. Over 20,000 gymnastics athletes choose to flip, spin, jump, and dance their way into the record books with a combination of balance and awesome strength.
- Nearly 30,000 kids in 10 states (8 states for the girls) participate in HS weightlifting. Clean and jerk is not for the meek. It’s serious lifting at its best and a small group of athletes dedicated to technique.
- Quite possibly the toughest sport in HS, about 44 thousand students participate in water polo. The intense contact sport is grueling mix of strength and endurance. (and you have to learn how to float…). Under the water tactics can make or break a victory.
- Field hockey, the fourth-most popular sport in the world with over 2 billion fans, doesn’t have quite the same mass appeal in America, but attracts over 60K HS kids to play. And for women, money talks—in the form of scholarships from over 250 colleges.
- Another 61K phenom that would make “The Dude” smile is bowling. Enjoyed in 25 states, back in the day is was Saturday afternoon entertainment on the Wide World of Sports. As The Stranger (Sam Elliott) says, we can “take comfort in that, knowin’, he’s out there.”
- With over 165K boys and girls participating, this is one sport to cheer about. Known as Competitive Spirit (the official name for cheerleading), participation has increased 38 percent since 2012 – maybe it’s all the Hollywood movies, this super competitive sport connects with the crowds.
- Nearly 215 thousand kids find their place on the lacrosse field. A few years ago, it became America’s fastest-growing high school sport. Now, one of the biggest challenges for athletic directors is finding qualified coaches to lead teams of boys and girls alike. (who chooses to be the goalie, anyway?)
- 223K student athletes nationwide know you don’t need to be the biggest, fastest or strongest to win on the golf course. Shrewd, calculating, and poised, the best golfers win between the ears and get to hone their skills to be used for years to come.
- Six boys high school sports are played in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. and Wrestling is one of them. It’s man vs. man, man vs. self, blood and sweat — to develop leadership skills, sportsmanship and discipline. 21K of the 268K athletes are girls who you just know will be successful in life.
- About 850K HS athletes choose to play fastpitch softball and baseball. As Ron Shelton summed up in Bull Durham, “This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball.” That’s why the old ballgame is played in 48 states and at over 17,000 high schools. You’re killing me smalls!
- Coming in at 5th most popular, volleyball attracts over 500K athletes. A “must play” in California, the sport attracts more than 2,300 high schools in the state with 68,000 students setting and blocking. That’s a lot of serves and slams too!
- While less than 1 percent of any high school soccer players becoming national players, HS soccer attracts over 850K kids each year. With these numbers, one would hope that a US Men’s World Cup title is possible – as the women have proven time and again. With so many kids playing, very few make it on to a college team.
- Basketball and Football round out the top spots, attracting over 1 million athletes each. With concussions an issue, and skyrocketing college and pro salaries, time will tell if they will remain on top in the coming years. (tough to beat Friday night games under the lights and on the hardwood).
- After high school, only 480,000 will compete as NCAA athletes, and a very select few within each sport will move on to compete at the professional or Olympic level.
- The likelihood of a high school athlete playing a NCAA Sports in college is less the 3% (a bit higher for specialty sports like lacrosse and ice hockey). And that number goes down as students progress through college.
- In contrast, the likelihood of an NCAA athlete earning a college degree is significantly greater – graduation success rates are 86% in Division I, 71% in Division II and 87% in Division III.
- Statistics show, of the nearly 500K NCAA athletes who compete in college, less than 2% of them go on to play professionally – with the biggest number going to baseball.
Next time you are watching a match, remember the odds of “making it” and enjoy the moments and future memories. For those of you who “love the stats” here are the links:
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