After two consecutive seasons of declined growth, high school swimming & diving saw it’s largest participation increase in eight years in 2016-17.
In the post-Olympic year, total participation increased 2.98% to 309,161 from 300,217 in 2015-16. The increase is the largest since 2008-09, when the total number of participants increased a whopping 11.57%, up to 289,060 from 259,093, after watching Michael Phelps win eight gold medals in Beijing.
The post-Olympic increase has become a trend, as the third highest increase over the last eight years came post-London 2012 when numbers went up 2.68%.
All data comes via the NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations), the governing body of high school sports in the United States.
Year-by-Year Growth Rates (Boys & Girls Combined)
Year-by-Year Growth Rates (Boys)
For boys specifically, the increase in number of schools offering high school swimming & diving and the number of athletes participating saw their largest increase since 2008-09, improving from 133,470 in 2015-16 to 138,364. That number just misses the all-time high of 138,373 set in 2013-14.
The number of schools offering boys swimming & diving has seen a steady increase, with last season’s total of 7342 being the highest ever by over 100.
Year-by-Year Growth Rates (Girls)
Girls’ swimming & diving also had their biggest increases over the last eight years in participants (2.43%), and their second highest in schools (2.14%). Number of participants hit an all-time high by nearly 4000 with 170,797, as did number of schools at 7721.
Total Participation – Boys
|By Schools||By Participants|
|1||Basketball||18,214||1||Football – 11-Player||1,057,407|
|2||Track & Field – Outdoor||16,699||2||Track & Field – Outdoor||600,136|
|5||Football – 11 player||14,099||5||Soccer||450,234|
|10||Swimming & Diving||7,342||10||Swimming & Diving||138,364|
Total Participation – Girls
|By Schools||By Participants|
|1||Basketball||17,934||1||Track and Field – Outdoor||494,477|
|2||Track & Field – outdoor||16,658||2||Volleyball||444,779|
|4||Softball – Fat Pitch||15,440||4||Soccer||388,339|
|5||Cross Country||14,880||5||Softball – Fast PItch||367,405|
|8||Golf||10,076||8||Swimming & Diving||170,797|
|9||Swimming & Diving||7,721||9||Competitive Spirit Squads||144,243|
|10||Competitive Spirit Squads||6,541||10||Lacrosse||93,473|
Overall, girls’ swimming & diving has the 8th highest number of participants and 9th highest number of schools offering it, while boys sit 10th in both. That is the same position all four categories have been in since the 1991-92 season, when girls were ranked 8th in both.
Basketball is offered in the highest number of schools for both boys and girls, while outdoor track and field (girls) and 11-player football (boys) lead for total participants.
In terms of state participation, California leads with 21,467 male and 29,722 female participants in swimming & diving across 883 and 915 schools respectively. Texas sits 2nd in both, and Pennsylvania was the only other state to crack 10,000 participants for either boys or girls, with 10,110 girls compared to just 4,572 boys.
Note: Tennessee is not included in the data, as it is not sanctioned by the NFHS.