By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
For the sixth straight year, Michigan ranked seventh nationally in high school sports participation, according to statistics for the 2013-14 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 second consecutive year.
Michigan’s participation ranking was based on a number of 299,246, with 127,275 girls and 171,971 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.
The state’s girls participation remained seventh nationally for the third consecutive year, while the boys participation figure continued to rank sixth. According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures from 2013, Michigan ranks ninth in both females and males ages 14 through 17.
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), and 14 sports bested the state’s overall national participation ranking, placing sixth or higher on their respective lists.
Boys cross country participation improved for the second straight year, up one spot to seventh nationally. Eight-player football also jumped, three spots to 11th, while 11-player football fell only one spot to sixth on its national list despite the shift of some teams to the 8-player format.
Seven Michigan boys sports joined 11-player football in falling slightly in national rankings, although none placed lower than ninth on their respective lists. Boys basketball fell from fourth to sixth, boys ice hockey from third to fourth, boys lacrosse from seventh to eighth, boys soccer from eighth to ninth, boys swimming and diving from seventh to ninth, boys track and field from sixth to seventh and wrestling also from sixth to seventh. Baseball (seventh), boys bowling (second), boys golf (sixth), boys skiing (fourth) and boys tennis (fifth) held constant to their 2012-13 national rankings.
Twelve of 14 girls sports also ranked the same as a year ago – girls basketball at seventh nationally, girls bowling at fourth, competitive cheer fifth, girls cross country fifth, girls golf sixth, gymnastics 12th, girls lacrosse 13th, girls skiing fourth, girls soccer ninth, softball seventh, girls swimming and diving ninth and girls tennis fourth. The two remaining girls sports fell in ranking, but only slightly – track and field from seventh to eighth and volleyball from fourth to fifth nationally.
National participation in high school sports in 2013-14 set a record for the 25th consecutive year with 7,795,658 participants – an increase of 82,081 from the year before. Girls participation also set a record for the 25th straight year, increasing this time 44,941 participants to 3,267,664 total. Boys participation rose above 4.5 million for the first time with a total of 4,527,994 – 37,140 more participants than in 2012-13. Part of the boys record total can be attributed to a jump in 11-player football participation, which grew by 6,791 players over the 2012 season – the first increase in national 11-player participation in five years.
Football (1,123,852 participants including 6, 8 and 9-player teams) remained the top sport for boys participation and top high school sport overall, with baseball the largest gainer among the top 10 boys sports. Girls track and field topped the girls national participation list, with volleyball the biggest girls gainer moving to third on that list behind also basketball. Outdoor track and field (1,059,206 boys and girls combined) was the second-most participated in sport nationally, followed by basketball (974,398 boys and girls combined).
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 more than 1.4 million spectators each year.