High school football participation continues to decline nationally

Receiver Gary Bryant gains big yards while playing for Corona Centennial.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

For the first time in 50 years, the National Federation of State High School Assns. was unable to produce its annual high school sports participation survey because sports was halted for many schools last spring during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NFHS did compile football participation numbers from last fall and found a decline that began after 11-player football reached an all-time high of 1,112,303 in 2008-09 continues but could be slowing.

There were 2,489 fewer participants in 11-player football last season after annual declines of 23,311, 20,540 and 30,829 the last three years. The total participants is 1,003,524. Decline in yearly participation has happened every year except 2013-14 since the all-time high.


The NFHS believes the numbers suggest rule and safety changes limiting the amount of contact before and during the season could be helping alleviate parental concerns.

Girls’ volleyball added 9,75`1 participants for a total of 462,559, passing basketball as the No. 2 most-popular sport behind girls’ track and field.