The National Federation of State High School Associations announced that there was a decline in high school sports participation numbers for the first time in 30 years last school year, according to the annual athletics participation survey.
This came less than a week after the Barrow Neurological Institute held a news conference about its latest survey that the percentage of Arizona parents allowing their children to compete in contact sports dropped from 82 to 65 percent because of concerns over head injuries.
According to Barrow’s study, there has been a 26 percent decline in football participation over the past four years, from 20,929 students in 2015 (per the NFHS) to 15,406 in 2018 (per the Arizona Interscholastic Association).
How is the AIA dealing with that decline?
For the first time, it is allowing its member schools for all sports to form teams comprised of freshmen and sophomores, eliminating one of the lower-level programs, if the schools feel there is a need to do so.
“The point of that is that we’d like to have less cancellation of programs either at the freshman or JV level,” said David Hines, executive director of the AIA, the state’s largest high school sports governing body. “Some schools don’t have enough to play two lower-level teams, and they go with one at the lower levels.”
The following schools requested cancellation of their JV football programs at the AIA Executive Board’s first meeting of the 2019-20 school year: Glendale Independence, Tucson Cholla, Marana, Phoenix Christian, Lake Havasu (freshman and JV B programs), Lakeside Blue Ridge, Phoenix Cortez, Surprise Paradise Honors, Douglas (the freshman/sophomore program), Queen Creek Eastmark.
Tempe McClintock football coach Corbin Smith noticed the list on Twitter, and commented, “That probably needs to be updated.” He said that Tempe Marcos de Niza, Tempe, Phoenix Central and Phoenix North Canyon “have already sent us cancellation of our JV games.”
According to the national federation’s participation survey, almost eight million (7,937,491) students throughout the country participated in sports, a decline of 43,395 from the 2017-18 school year. Two years ago, according to the NFHS, participation numbers reached an all-time high at 7,980,886. The last time there was a decline in sports-participation numbers was during the 1988-89 school year, the NFHS noted in its release.