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Continued MHSAA High School Sports Participation Surpasses National Population Rankings


Sep 15, 2023

According to the annual National Participation Survey conducted by the American Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), Michigan is projected to maintain its rank as the 10th highest state in terms of high school population for the 2022-2023 school year. Additionally, Michigan continues to hold its highest rank for participation in high school sports.

In terms of overall attendance, Michigan ranked 9th nationally among states with 268,070 total participants in sports that have postseason tournaments conducted by the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA). It’s important to note that each student is only counted once, regardless of how many sports they participate in, even if they are part of multiple sports. Michigan also ranks 9th in the nation for both girls (111,569) and boys (156,501) in terms of participation rates. According to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, Michigan ranks 9th for high school boys’ population and 10th for high school girls’ population.

Michigan saw improvements in its national rankings for seven sports between 2021 and 2022. Notably, women’s volleyball and men’s soccer both moved up two spots, with volleyball ranking fourth in the nation and men’s soccer ranking eighth. Other sports that experienced gains in national rankings include women’s golf (4th), softball (7th), women’s track and field (7th), women’s swimming and diving (8th), and men’s swimming and diving (8th).

Several MHSAA sports have participation rates that exceed Michigan’s high school population rankings. For girls, sports like bowling (4th), tennis (4th), cross country (6th), basketball (7th), cheer competition (9th), and soccer (9th) all have higher participation rates compared to the national population rankings. In youth sports, sports like bowling (2nd), ice hockey (4th), tennis (5th), golf (5th), basketball (6th), track and field (6th), cross country (7th), soccer – all formats combined (7th), and baseball (8th) surpassed the 9th place in population rankings.

Despite being the only state to sponsor alpine skiing, Michigan ranks third in the sport for both women and men. In wrestling, both boys and girls finished in 8th place.

The national participation data shows an increase of over 3 percent in the number of participants from 2021 to 2022, totaling 7,857,969 individuals. This marks the first increase in participation data since the all-time high in 2017-2018, following a two-year suspension of data collection due to the pandemic by the NFHS (although the MHSAA continued to collect and report data during this time). The national total includes 4,529,789 boys and 3,328,180 girls, according to data from the 51 NFHS member state associations.

Youth soccer remains the most popular sport with over 1 million participants. The total number of participants for 11-a-side soccer increased to 1,028,761, a 5.6% increase from the previous year. This is the first increase since 2013 and the second since the all-time high in 2008-2009. Boys’ participation in 6-a-side, 8-a-side, and 9-a-side football also saw a slight increase.

For boys, outdoor track and field, basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, cross country, tennis, golf, swimming and diving, and competitive spirit were the top sports. On the women’s side, outdoor track and field and volleyball remained the top two sports, with basketball reclaiming third place. Cross country ranked fourth, followed by softball, soccer, golf, tennis, swimming and diving, and competitive spirit.

Texas remained the state with the highest number of participants at 827,446, but California closed the gap in second place with an additional 25,000 participants, totaling 787,697. New York ranked third with 356,803 participants, followed by Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Jersey, Michigan, and Minnesota. Massachusetts dropped to 11th place.

The NFHS has been conducting the Participation Survey in its current form since 1971.

By Editor

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