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Student participation in high school sports drops across the country

FILE: Taylorsville High School. Photo credit: Paul Nelson.

SALT LAKE COUNTY – Sports have always been a hugely popular part of high school life all over the country, but, analysts say the number of kids participating in sports has fallen for the first time in 30 years.  However, Utah is bucking this national trend.

The National Federation of State High School Associations says there are more than 43 thousand fewer kids taking part in sports this year, compared to last.  Eleven-player football participation dropped in all but seven states, bringing it down to a level not seen since 1999-2000.

However, analysts say we were coming off an all-time high in high school sports just a year ago, and people had been predicting this kind of thing would happen, eventually.

“Inevitably, you can get swings back and forth, year to year,” says Utah High School Activities Association Assistant Director Jon Oglesby.

Utah is seeing an increase in the number of kids playing sports in high school, and Oglesby says it’s been happening for the past few years.

Oglesby says, “We had close to 11,500 students this year participating in track and field, and last year we had over 11,000.”

There are a few factors as to why Utah isn’t seeing a decline.  Oglesby says the number of students is rising in the state, overall.

He says, “We have people moving into our state, as well as a growing population base.”

Also, more schools have been built to keep up with the demand, plus, students are being given more options to compete.

“We’re adding sports.  This year, we’ve added boys and girls lacrosse which will lead to an increase of participants in our schools because those sports will be sanctioned,” Oglesby says.