High school sports participation drops 4% nationally in first survey since 2018-19

High school football athletes play in a game.
High school football participation levels are continuing to decline nationally, according to a new survey.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The first national participation survey in three years for high school sports showed a decline of 4% across the country with football participation levels also declining, according to the National Federation of State High School Assns.

The last participation survey was conducted in 2018-19. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, seasons were disrupted and the surveys halted. In this latest survey for 2020-21, there were 7,618,054 participants in high school sports, down from 7,937,491 in 2018-19. It was also the lowest participation number since 2008-09.

Boys 11-man football declined 3% from 1,006,013 to 973,792. There was an increase for 6-, 8- or 9-player football.

Among the top 10 boys sports, golf was the only sport to increase in participation by 4%. Golf also increased among girls.


Soccer moved past basketball to No. 3 in popularity among girls behind only track and field and volleyball.

Chaminade High grad and Harvard kicker Jonah Lipel talks about the Ivy League experience in the ever-changing world of college football and NIL deals.

Sept. 14, 2022

Texas has the most participants with 846,161. California is No. 2 at 762,823 despite a drop of more than 60,000 students from three years ago.