Student-athletes are participating in record numbers

I don’t like losing … at anything. OK, maybe I’m a little too competitive. I hate to lose, whether it’s playing checkers, ping pong or any sport. Well, hate is a bit strong, I suppose, but losing irks me.

When I was a kid growing up, my dad let me beat him from time-to-time when we played ping pong. Eventually I was able to honestly beat him, and he had trouble ever winning again.

Maybe that’s why when I played board games, basketball or whatever with my sons Ryan and Nathan, I usually played to win. After all, I needed to teach them some character, right? Besides, I knew the day would come when I wouldn’t be able to win again.

I mean, if winning doesn’t matter, why bother keeping score?

Coaches at the high school level especially, work with a variety of student-athletes. Some are driven to succeed. Others like to win but are satisfied with participating. I don’t know anyone who enjoys losing, but it bothers some student-athletes more than others.

An article by the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) ran an article earlier this fall that shows high school sports participation increased for the 29th consecutive year. Regardless of the motivation, it’s a good sign that the number of students participating in sports is on the rise.

Some of the increase can be directly attributed to girls’ sports programs, with an additional 15,009 participants in girls’ sports programs compared to the previous year.

The number of participants in high school sports in 2017-18 reached an all-time record of 7,980,886, according to figures from the 51 NFHS member state high school associations, which includes the District of Columbia. The number of girls participating in high school sports reached an all-time high of 3,425,306, and boys’ participation also set a new standard at 4,565,580.

Among boys’ sports, soccer had the largest gain, with 6,128 additional participants.

With 1,036,842 participants, 11-player football remains the No. 1 participatory sport for boys in high school by a large margin. Maybe America isn’t quite ready to let go of its obsession with physical/violent sports. At the very least, the possible end of football has been greatly exaggerated.

There is a decline in participation in 11-player football, although not as high as in 2016, while participation in 6-player and 8-player football continued its trend upward. In 2017, 11-player football declined two percent from the previous year.

Outdoor track and field is No. 2 with 600,097 participants, followed by basketball with 551,373, baseball with 487,097, soccer with 456,362, cross country with 270,095, wrestling with 245,564, tennis with 158,151, golf with 144,024 and swimming / diving with 138,935.

For the girls, outdoor track and field is tops with 488,592 participants, followed by volleyball (446,583), basketball (4112,407), soccer (390,482), fast-pitch softball (367,861), cross country (223,518), tennis (190,768), swimming / diving (175,594), competitive spirit (162,669) and lacrosse (96,904).

The top 10 states by participants remain the same, and, given the population of these states, it comes as no surprise.

Texas and California topped the list with 824,619 and 819,625 participants, respectively, followed by New York with 378,065 participants.

The rest of the Top 10 were Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey and Minnesota.

I’m not sure how many of these student-athletes will become sports officials, like yours truly did for 40 years, but I would tell them this. It’s one way for competitive people to stay involved in sports without fear of losing!

Of course, you won’t win either.

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