Report: Football Making a Comeback With High Schoolers

According to a new report from the National Federation of State High School Associations, football saw its first increase in participation in five years among high school boys. The group says the findings validate its recent efforts to fight the threat of concussions.

It wasn’t a surprise when the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) revealed that, for the 25th year in a row, participation in high school sports increased during the 2013-2014 school year. Considering population trends, that was basically a given.

What was a surprise, however, was that football saw an increase of 6,607 participants during the school year, despite the sport taking some hard knocks over the risk of concussions. The gridiron, which draws more than a million student athletes yearly, is no slouch in the participation category; nonetheless, the increase was the first NFHS had reported for the sport in the past five years among boys.

That success may be partly the result of NFHS’s own actions. During the prior school year, the federation, which sets standards and rules for high school athletics, had boosted its efforts to fight concussions through a series of new rules, education initiatives, and legislative activity. The association has also relied on a data-collection tool to gather information on injuries and risks that high school athletes may face.

NFHS Executive Director Bob Gardner said the growth in football participation was a validation of those efforts.

“With the precautions that are in place nationwide to address concussions in all high school sports, including football, we have maintained that the risk of injury is as low as it ever has been,” he said in a statement. “Certainly, this rise in football numbers is a confirmation of those beliefs and indicates the strong continued interest nationwide in high school football.”

While football bounced back this year, it’s not the fastest-growing sport. That honor goes to lacrosse, which gained 9,744 new players on boys and girls teams. Close behind was girls volleyball, which drew 9,426 new participants. The fastest-growing boys sport, meanwhile, was baseball, with 7,838 new participants—relegating football to second place.

Overall, participation among all sports for both girls and boys reached an all-time peak of 7,795,658 during the 2013-2014 school year, a jump of 82,081 from the previous year.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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