CIF survey shows high school football participation on the rise

The California Interscholastic Federation announced Tuesday that football participation increased by over 4,000 students from the 2021-22 to the 2022-23 school years. 

In a release by the CIF, 11-player football, the state’s most popular high school sport, went from 84,626 players across California in ’21-22 to 89,178 last school year, an increase of 5.4 percent. Eight-player football also saw a slight uptick from 2,232 to 2,611.

This was the first time participation in the sport has increased since 2015, as the number of players statewide steadily declined from 103,725 to 84,626 over that span.

Overall, 763,867 student-athletes played high school sports in California last year, an increase of 1.4 percent over the previous year, according to the survey of 1,609 schools.

“It’s encouraging to see steady participation after a challenging past few years,” CIF Executive Director Ron Nocetti said in a press release on Tuesday. “As we move forward, the CIF looks to continue to expand and provide students with the opportunity to belong, connect, and compete in education-based experiences.”

While boys athletics gained 10,401 participants overall, girls sports lost 140. 

In boys athletics, soccer was the second-most popular sport with 53,368 participants, with track and field coming in third with 52,164.

Both sports saw increased involvement, and wrestling saw the largest gain from last year at 10.5 percent, going from 19,900 to 21,982 in one year. Swimming and diving participation declined 5.6 percent, the most of any of the top 10 boys sports. 

Basketball and baseball were the fourth and fifth-most popular boys sports, although each saw slight decreases in participation from the previous school year.

Soccer (45,544 players) and volleyball (45,390) are the two most popular girls sports, with sports each losing 3.2 and 0.3 percent of participants, respectively, from the prior school year. Track and field, the third most popular at 40,434, saw an increase of 5.3 percent.

Swimming and diving had the largest decline at 5.2 percent, going from 23,153 to 21,124. Traditional competitive cheer saw the largest increase in participants among all sports at plus-16.8 percent, going from 11,233 to 13,119.

Girls water polo lost the most participants, with a drop of 8.9 percent from the previous year. 

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