The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has released the results of their annual membership participation survey, and participation in swimming and diving has risen* for at the 2nd-straight year, with a significant increase in the number of teams driving that growth.
*Editor’s note: because the NFHS participation data is done based on surveys sent to individual schools and districts, the numbers are not official and therefore there can be survey errors, though those stand out the most in the less-universal sports. Not every high school is a member of the NFHS, though the vast-majority are.
In total, the survey reported 314,529 participants in swimming & diving among NFHS membership, a 1.74% increase from last year (after a post-Olympic 2.98% bump a year prior). The survey reported 253 new boys’ teams and 240 new girls’ teams.
A lot of the growth comes from California, which is already the state with the most teams and participants in the sport (by more-than-double). Schools in the state reported 62 new girls’ programs and 1,439 more girls participating, with 65 more boys’ programs and 1,405 more boys participating.
Swimming remains the 10th-most popular sport for boys in the survey and 8th-most popular for girls. Basketball had the most programs for both boys and girls, with football (1.05 million) the most popular participation sport for boys and outdoor track & field (494.477) the most popular participation sport for girls.
Overall participation in athletics continues to grow, for the 29th-straight year, in spite of a decline in participation in high school football – the most popular high school sport in the country.
Year-by-Year Growth Rates (Boys & Girls Combined)
|TOTAL||TOTAL PARTICIPANTS||PARTICIPANT GROWTH|
Year-by-Year Growth Rates (Boys)
Year-by-Year Growth Rates (Girls)
Other Aquatic Disciplines:
- Synchronized Swimming saw a small uptick in programs (30 vs. 29) and participants (597 vs. 592) for girls, with boys numbers (3 teams, 35 participants) reporting back exactly the same. All of the reporting boys’ teams were in Ohio, while Michigan and Minnesota also supported girls’ teams.
- Water polo saw 838 boys’ teams with 22,501 participants in 2017-2018, and 844 girls’ teams with 21,054 participants. Those are increases in both columns: from 822/21,286 in boys a year earlier, and 831/20,826 from girls a year earlier.
- Water polo is one of the sports where there are known survey deficiencies. For example, Texas doesn’t report any high school water polo teams, even though the sport has a large participation base among high schools in the state. The gap comes from the University Interscholastic League (UIL), which is the official governing body for most high school sports in the state, not sanctioning the sport.