USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Joe is a former college-athlete and coach at the NAIA level, where he earned an NAIA National Championship. Joe is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
Where you live can be a big deal when it comes to sports—especially if you’re not from a recruiting hotbed or are being recruited by an out-of-state school. However, some people may be surprised to find out that where you’re from makes a big impact on your athletic development long before the college recruitment begins. ESPN’s Kids in Sports study dug deep into the numbers behind youth sports in America and there were some surprising findings that surfaced as a result—such as the statistic that 25% of high school girls from cities have never participated in organized sports. Check out some more in this article.
Suburbanites are the most likely to be involved in sports
Turns out that the soccer mom stereotype may have some truth to it. According to ESPN, the percentage of suburban boys in grades three through five that were involved in at least one organized sport is a whopping 89%, and that number only drops slightly for girls of the same grade range to 81%. Suburban boys and girls also lead the pack when it comes to playing on three or more teams, with 51% of boys in grades three through five, and 36% of girls in grades three to five. Meanwhile, for boys in grades three through twelve, those living in urban areas lagged slightly behind suburbanites and boys in rural areas were least likely to participate in sports. Interestingly enough, girls who live in rural areas are more likely to play sports than girls in urban areas, but only in grades three through five and grades nine through twelve.
Rural areas have more opportunity for kids to play high school sports
When looking at the top five areas for available high school roster positions as a percentage of school enrollment, the list is topped by North Dakota (boys 104%, girls 79%), Iowa (boys 95%, girls 72%), South Dakota (boys 92%, girls 82%), Wyoming (boys 84%, girls 72%), and Montana (boys 80%, girls 76%). In North Dakota, there are actually more high school roster spots than there are boys, all but assuring boys they can play a high school sport if they want to. That’s a stark contrast to the bottom five areas for opportunities, which are composed of high-population areas and areas where school budgets are stretched thin: California (boys 39%, girls 29%), Tennessee (boys 38%, girls 23%), Georgia (boys 38%, girls 22%), Washington D.C. (boys 33%, girls 22%) and Florida (boys 30%, girls 23%). So, yes, kids have more opportunity to play in rural areas in Western states. But it’s also interesting that it’s low-opportunity states such as California, Georgia, D.C. and Florida that remain college recruiting hotbeds for sports like football and basketball.
Kids living in low-income urban have the lowest rates for kids playing high school sports
When it comes down to sports, kids living in low-income areas in cities are getting hit the hardest. According to the study, only a quarter of kids in grades eight through twelve who are enrolled in the poorest schools played sports. ESPN adds, “This situation won’t be helped as schools continue to cut back funds for teams. The percentage of high schools with no sports has already jumped from 8.2 percent during the 1999-2000 school year to 15.1 percent in 2009-10.” It’s an unfortunate situation, but those looking to help with after-school programs and sports leagues can make the biggest impact in these areas.