By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
For the seventh straight year, Michigan ranked seventh nationally in high school sports participation, according to statistics for the 2014-15 school year released recently by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
That level of participation continued to best Michigan’s national ranking for total number of residents of high school age, which remained ninth for the third consecutive year, and Michigan also ranked ninth or higher in participation in 25 of 28 sports in which the Michigan High School Athletic Association conducts a postseason tournament.
Michigan’s participation ranking was based on a number of 295,660, with 124,633 girls and 171,027 boys taking part, and included sports in which the MHSAA does not conduct postseason tournaments. The totals count students once for each sport in which he or she participates, meaning students who are multiple-sport athletes are counted more than once.
The state’s girls participation remained seventh nationally for the fourth consecutive year, while the boys participation figure continued to rank sixth. According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures from 2014, Michigan ranks ninth in both females and males ages 14 through 17.
Two sports improved in national ranking this school year, while four sports dropped one or two positions. However, 13 sports bested the state’s overall national participation ranking of seventh, placing sixth or higher on their respective lists.
Michigan girls volleyball improved from fifth to fourth in the national participation ranking, and girls track and field from eighth to seventh. The four sports that ranked lower for 2014-15 were boys bowling falling from second to third, girls cross country from fifth to seventh, girls swimming and diving from ninth to 10th and wrestling from seventh to eighth.
The 11 other Michigan sports that ranked sixth or higher repeated their rankings from a year ago: football (11 and 8-player combined) at sixth, boys basketball at sixth, boys golf at sixth, boys ice hockey fourth, boys skiing fourth, boys tennis fifth, girls bowling fourth, girls competitive cheer fifth, girls golf sixth, girls skiing fourth and girls tennis also remaining fourth on its national participation list.
The other Michigan sports that equaled their 2013-14 national ranking were girls basketball at seventh, gymnastics at 12th, girls lacrosse at 13th, girls soccer at ninth, softball at seventh, baseball at seventh, boys cross country also seventh, boys lacrosse eighth, boys soccer ninth, boys swimming and diving ninth and boys track and field seventh on its list.
National participation in high school sports in 2013-14 set a record for the 26th consecutive year with 7,807,047 participants – an increase of 11,389 from the year before. Girls participation also set a record for the 26th straight year, increasing this time 20,071 participants to 3,287,735 total. Boys participation fell 8,682 participants from 2013-14, but still totaled 4,519,312 after passing 4.5 million for the first time a year ago.
Boys soccer saw the largest gain nationally with an additional 15,150 participants, and that sport ranked fifth among boys sports behind 11-player football, outdoor track and field, basketball and baseball. Football (1,083,617) remained the most-played high school sport overall. Track and field remained the most popular girls sport with 478,726 participants, with volleyball moving ahead of basketball for the second spot in the girls rankings. Soccer and softball followed at fourth and fifth, respectively, on the girls sports list.