By: John Raffel
Records Set in 3 Sports as Overall MHSAA Participation Stays Above Enrollment Dip
EAST LANSING, Mich. – July 13 – Enrollment in Michigan High School Athletic Association member high schools continued a trend of slight declines in 2016-17, but participation in sports held firm as records were set in three of the 28 sports for which postseason tournaments are sponsored by the MHSAA.
A total of 283,397 participants competed in MHSAA-sponsored sports this past school year, down 0.29 percent from 2015-16. However, this year’s decrease falls in line with a decrease in enrollment at member schools of 0.40 percent. The overall MHSAA participation totals count students once for each sport in which they participate, meaning students who are multiple-sport athletes are counted more than once.
Despite a drop in girls enrollment of 0.60 percent in 2016-17, girls participation increased for the second straight school year to 119,709 participants, an increase of 0.36 percent. Boys overall participation fell 0.76 percent to 163,688 participants, slightly sharper than the drop in boys enrollment of 0.21 percent for the school year. However, eight girls sports and eight boys sports saw increases in participation in 2016-17.
Boys and girls lacrosse continued their record-setting climb, boys lacrosse with 5,114 participants to increase 3.3 percent from 2015-16 and break its record set in 2013-14. Girls lacrosse saw 2,814 participants, an increase of 1.4 percent from the previous year, to continue its streak of setting a participation record every season since becoming a sponsored tournament sport in 2005. Boys cross country also set a record for the second straight season, this time with an increase of 1.7 percent to 9,415 participants total.
Good news also came from girls basketball, which ended a string of 10 straight declines in participation with an increase of 2.2 percent in 2016-17 – those 15,896 participants were the most in the sport since 2013-14. The largest percentage increases by far in 2016-17 were seen in boys and girls skiing, which were up 16.4 and 14.4 percent, respectively, with 837 boys participants and 746 girls after both experienced decreases in participation the school year before.
A number of other sports also saw increases on both the boys and girls’ sides: swimming & diving saw a 5.2 percent increase for boys and 4.1 increase for girls, track & field saw a 2.4 percent increase for girls and 1.9 percent increase for boys, girls cross country joined its boys counterpart with a 1.0 percent increase in participation, and tennis saw a 2.8 percent increase for girls and 0.48 increase for boys. That boys tennis increase ended a string of seven straight years of declining participation.
Other sports to see increases in 2016-17 were girls golf, increasing for the second straight season, this time 2.9 percent to 3,561 participants; boys ice hockey, up 1.8 percent to 3,411 participants; and boys soccer up 0.38 percent to 14,630 participants.
Also of note in this year’s survey:
- The increase in participation for 16 sports during 2016-17 was compared to an increase in 15 sports for 2015-16 and only eight sports in 2014-15.
- After a significant slowing in participation decline in football over the previous three years, 2016-17 saw a decline of 4.6 percent, or 1,805 participants from 2015-16. The number of school-sponsored football programs remained consistent over the last two years – there were 642 in 2015-16 and 640 in 2016-17 (up from 630 in 2014-15). But there was a shift of programs from 11-player to 8-player; there were 15 fewer 11-player programs in 2016-17 than the year before, but 13 more 8-player programs.
- Of the 12 MHSAA sports that saw participation declines in 2016-17, three were by mere hundredths of a percent. Boys wrestling saw a decline of three participants total, girls gymnastics had two fewer participants and boys golf participation decreased by one person.