Participation in high school volleyball continued to grow in the 2017-2018 season, according to the official NFHS participation survey results released this week. Boys indoor participation numbers jumped for the 6th-straight year, with the biggest players growth since the earliest NFHS data made available (2009-2010) at 6.58% (equivalent to over 3,700 players), while girls’ participation grew at a more modest .41% (with about 1,800 excess players as compared to the season prior).
While boys beach volleyball continued to see momentous growth (5.82%) in high schools, and more schools added girls’ beach volleyball programs (13), the number of participants in girls’ beach volleyball actually dropped.
Mixed Coed-6 volleyball, which is the most popular version in Alaska, held steady with 76 teams and 275 players – the exact number as last year. Encouragingly, participation in high school athletics in Alaska did grow overall, after two years of huge drops that were likely due to a drop in oil prices – a major driver of the state’s economy.
Girls’ volleyball remained the 3rd most-popular sport by number of programs (behind basketball and outdoor track & field), while it was the 2nd-most popular in participation numbers (behind outdoor track & field). Football remained the boys’ most popular sport, with 1.05 million participants. Football participation continues to fall, though at a slower rate than in past years, which the NFHS credits to improved safety rules.
Girls’ Participation Rankings
|BY SCHOOLS||BY PARTICIPANTS|
|1||Basketball||18,171||1||Track and Field – Outdoor||488,592|
|2||Track & Field – outdoor||16,951||2||Volleyball||446,583|
|4||Softball – Fast Pitch||15,544||4||Soccer||390,482|
|5||Cross Country||15,216||5||Softball – Fast PItch||367,861|
|8||Golf||10,289||8||Swimming & Diving||175,594|
|9||Swimming & Diving||7,961||9||Competitive Spirit Squads||162,669|
|10||Competitive Spirit Squads||6,877||10||Lacrosse||96,904|
Editor’s Note: there is some complexity, especially in the boys’ numbers. For example, CHSAA, the governing body in Colorado, gave approval for a pilot run of boys’ volleyball for the 2018-2019 season. In spite of that approval, there are still over 600 players in Colorado who didn’t make it into the survey, and that number should continue to grow with state sanctioning. There are a few varsity teams in Texas in the private school SPC league that the NFHS doesn’t have in their numbers. In male Olympic sports, there tends to be more inconsistencies than in other sports. These numbers reflect a portion of participation, as the study is based on a survey that can result in some subjectivity.
Year-by-Year Growth Rates
|BOYS INDOOR||SCHOOLS||PARTICIPANTS||SCHOOLS GROWTH||
|GIRLS INDOOR||SCHOOLS||PARTICIPANTS||SCHOOLS GROWTH||
|GIRLS’ SAND||SCHOOLS||PARTICIPANTS||SCHOOLS GROWTH||
|BOYS’ SAND||SCHOOLS||PARTICIPANTS||SCHOOLS GROWTH||