The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) on Monday released nationwide participation numbers from the 2018-19 school year, announcing a decline in high school athletics and activities participation for the first time in 31 years.
Washington state also saw a dip in participation, tallying 174,378 students involved in high school activities during the year compared to 175,783 in 2017-18, according to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), which released its numbers Thursday.
While the total number of participants fell in the Evergreen State, the trend was consistent with states around the country, as Washington remained at No. 15 in terms of total participation rankings. In total, schools in Washington saw 94,614 boys turn out compared to 79,764 girls participants, the WIAA reported.
The NFHS reported that the biggest contributors to the nationwide decline were the two longstanding and popular sports of football and basketball. Although Washington saw a decline in year-over-year participation in 11-player football, the number of participants in 8-player football increased in 2018-19, the WIAA reported.
In Washington, sport participation increased in boys cross country, track and field and wrestling. Girls participation increased in bowling, track and field and wrestling.
The 2018-19 total of 7,937,491 U.S. high school participants is a decrease of 43,395 from the 2017-18 school year when the number of participants in high school sports reached an all-time record high of 7,980,886. This year’s total – the third-highest ever – consisted of 4,534,758 boys and 3,402,733 girls, according to the figures obtained from the 51-member state high school associations, which includes the District of Columbia. The last decline in sports participation numbers occurred during the 1988-89 school year.
“We know from recent surveys that the number of kids involved in youth sports has been declining, and a decline in the number of public school students has been predicted for a number of years, so we knew our ‘streak’ might end someday,” said Dr. Karissa Niehoff, NFHS executive director. “The data from this year’s survey serves as a reminder that we have to work even harder in the coming years to involve more students in these vital programs – not only athletics but performing arts programs as well.”