By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
For the fifth straight year, Michigan ranked seventh nationally in high school sports participation, according to statistics for the 2012-13 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 fell one spot to ninth nationally in 2012.
Michigan’s participation ranking was based on a number of 304,438, with 130,009 girls and 174,429 boys taking part, and included sports in which the Michigan High School Athletic Association 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.
Michigan girls participation remained seventh nationally for the second consecutive year, while the boys participation figure continued to rank sixth. According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures from 2012, Michigan ranks ninth in both females and males ages 14 through 17 after ranking eighth in both in 2011.
Eight sports – including seven played by boys – moved up in their respective rankings, while seven sports moved down their lists. Total, Michigan ranked ninth or higher nationally in participation in 26 of the 28 sports in which the MHSAA conducts a postseason tournament (not counting separately 8-player football).
Basketball and boys swimming and diving led the improvement among boys sports, both moving up two spots – boys basketball to fourth-most participants nationally and swimming and diving up to seventh. Improving one position in national rank were boys bowling to second, boys cross country to eighth, boys ice hockey to third, boys lacrosse to seventh and boys soccer to eighth. Only one boys sport moved down in national rank – wrestling from fifth to sixth-most participants. Baseball (seventh), 11-player football (fifth), 8-player football (14th), boys golf (sixth), boys skiing (fourth), boys tennis (fifth) and boys track and field (sixth) held constant with 2011-12 rankings.
Girls cross country also jumped up two spots on its national ranking list, from seventh to fifth in 2012-13. However, six girls sports moved down their respective lists: girls basketball from sixth to seventh, girls golf from fifth to sixth, girls lacrosse from 12th to 13th, girls soccer from eighth to ninth, girls swimming and diving also eighth to ninth and girls tennis from third to fourth. Girls bowling (fourth), competitive cheer (fifth), gymnastics (12th), girls skiing (fourth), softball (seventh), girls track and field (seventh) and volleyball (fourth) repeated their 2011-12 national rankings.
National participation in high school sports in 2012-13 set a new record for the 24th consecutive year with 7,713,577 students – an increase of 21,057 – taking part. Girls participation also set a record for the 24th straight year, increasing this time 15,190 participants to 3,222,723 total. Boys participation bounced back from year’s first decrease in two decades, increasing by 5,867 participants from 2011-12 for a total of 4,490,854 – the second-highest total on record for boys national participation.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract approximately 1.6 million spectators each year.