For the first time in 30 years, participation in high school sports around the country has declined. Despite its past popularity, football has also felt the effects of this. According to The Guardian, from the 2017-2018 school year to the 2018-2019 school year, 43,395 fewer students participated in high school sports, after reaching a peak in 2017, with the participation of 7,980,887 students.
A contributing factor to the decrease in school sports popularity, sports clubs and traveling teams have provided a more enjoyable sports experience than school teams. Kids today have the option to participate in a sport that operates independently from the school, allowing players to receive more playing time or practice. This reduces the urge to play with one’s school team, where one might not be the focus of the coach. Students may not wish to stop their involvement in school sports altogether, but instead lean toward their club or private sports league.
“There has been a decrease in some high school athletics in some parts of the country due to students playing more club, whether it be club soccer or club volleyball,” John Hayduk, Miami Palmetto Senior High’s Assistant Athletic Director, said. “I know baseball has a strong summer program, and things like that that kids have been using instead of the high school programs, which traditionally is what they used.”
However, Palmetto lies on the other end of the spectrum, with a large number of students engaging in the athletic programs the school offers. Palmetto has every single sport available in the district, excluding girls’ flag football, allowing students to participate in a wide variety of activities.
“We have always been strong in traditional sports like baseball, basketball, football, softball, but we have seen a very large increase in sports like swimming, badminton, and even bowling,” Hayduk said.
This year, the football team has been highlighted due to its Adidas sponsorship, encouraging involvement, in contrast to the rest of the country, which faces a sharp decrease. Overall, America is currently experiencing a decline in high school sports, especially football, due to the privatization of athletics.