High school football participation drops for second straight year

High school football participation dropped for the second year in a row last season.

The National Federation of State High School Associations released its annual survey of high school athletics, finding that while overall participation in sports is at an all-time high, fewer boys are playing 11-person football.

Some 7,979,986 high school students participated in sports in the 2017-2018 school year.

Eleven-player football, however, saw a 2-percent decline. That followed a 2.5 percent drop from 2015 to 2016. All told, 1,035,942 played last year – a drop of 21,465 players from 2016. The overall drop over two years is 49,330 students.

The NFHS put a positive spin on the numbers.

“We are encouraged that the decline in high school football has slowed due, in part, to our efforts in reducing the risk of injury in the sport, executive director Karissa Niehoff said in a statement. “While there may be other reasons that students elect not to play football, we have attempted to assure student-athletes and their parents that thanks to the concussion protocols and rules in place in every state in the country, the sport of football is as safe as it ever has been.”

Boys soccer, on the other hand, saw the biggest uptick in participation. The NFHS reported that 6,128 more boys played the sport last season than did the previous year.

Football is still by far the most popular sport for boys. Track leads the way for girls, with 488,591 participants.