Fairfield High School's Maiah Hodge (1) takes a warmup swing while teammate Lindsey Mitchell (12) stands in at the plate Tuesday, April 9, during a nonconference softball game at Harrison. The host Wildcats won 2-1. RICK CASSANO/STAFF

How many kids play high school sports? It’s continuing to grow, but shifting to some new teams

Prep sports teams are often the beloved icons of local school communities and in Ohio and nationwide the number of teens participating continues to grow.

For almost three decades now the overall, national number of boys and girls participating in all high school sports increased.

Female high school athletes were a big part of keeping the growth streak going.

Led by an additional 15,009 participants in girls’ sports programs, the overall number of participants in high school sports increased for the 29th consecutive year in 2017-18, according to the annual High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

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The number of participants in high school sports in 2017-18 reached an all-time record high of 7,980,886, according to figures from the 51 NFHS member state high school associations, which includes the District of Columbia, according to a statement released by NFHS officials.

It’s a 0.2 percent increase over the previous year’s national total of 7,963,535.

The latest total number of prep sports participants nationwide is a 7.4 percent increase from a decade ago.

In Ohio the total number of students playing high school sports jumped 2.2 percent from the previously tallied school year of 2016-2017.

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In the 2017-2018 school year in Ohio, 204,214 boys played on school sports teams and 143,353 girls participated.

The boys total for 2017-2018 was a 3.2 percent increase over the previous year while the girls sports participants saw a increase of .7 percent.

The number of girls participating nationwide in high school sports reached an all-time high of 3,415,306, and boys’ participation also set a new standard at 4,565,580.

Among boys sports nationwide, soccer registered the largest gain with 6,128 additional participants. Other boys sports with sizeable gains were cross country (3,824), volleyball (3,767) and golf (2,558). For the second consecutive year, competitive spirit had the largest increase among girls sports with an additional 18,426 participants, followed by swimming and diving (4,797), lacrosse (3,431) and golf (3,176), said NFHS officials.

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With 1,036,842 participants in America’s high schools, football remains the No. 1 participatory sport for boys in high school by a large margin. Outdoor track and field is No. 2 with 600,097 participants, followed by basketball (551,373), baseball (487,097), soccer (456,362), cross country (270,095), wrestling (245,564), tennis (158,151), golf (144,024) and swimming/diving (138,935).

“There are many positives about the numbers in this year’s sports participation survey,” wrote Karissa Niehoff, NFHS executive director. “The upward trek of interest in high school sports continued for the 29th consecutive year. The model of sports within the education-based school system continues to thrive in the United States.”

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