California is one of the most talent-rich football states in the country, so one naturally expects that it enjoys very strong participation from among its average student body. That assumption may be wrong, if not now, then soon.
As reported by the San Jose Mercury News, among other sources, student athlete participation in California high school football fell to 91,305 students, down from 94,286 in 2017. That marks a decrease of more than three percent, with a total drop of 12 percent since 2011.
While football remains California’s most popular student sport, it’s trending in the wrong direction. With just more than 55,000 participants, track and field was the second most popular sport in 2017. Soccer was third with 54,996.
Yet, it’s those other two sports who paint California’s football woes in stark relief. As with overall participation across the state, the number of student athletes competing in track and field and soccer grew in 2018.
The California powers that be aren’t freaking out about the decline, at least according to their statements on the matter. California Interscholastic Federation Executive Director Ron Nocetti noted the consistent decline and only offered improved connection with USA Football as a potential antidote to the state’s decline.
We aren’t buying it, which means it’s time for everyone to think more creatively about how to get student athletes involved in the game. There isn’t a perfect answer, but it’s definitely time for California to try something more drastic to arrest the slide.