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The Most Popular High School Sports in Each State

For many students, sports play a large part in the high school experience. While the number of students who play sports in high school declined slightly in the 2018-19 school year, there were still 7,937,491 participants; sports are still a very popular extracurricular activity for students around the country.

Which high school sports are most popular in America? We examined the most popular high school sports to play for boys and girls around the country to determine the top sports in each state.

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Which High School Sports Are Most Popular?

For boys in America, football is by far the most popular of sports to play. When looking at high school sports stats, it’s the most popular high school sport in 43 states, and more than one million boys participated in the 2018-19 school year. Track and field is also popular among boys, with 605,354 participants.

These are the top 10 most popular sports to play in America for high school boys, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations:

  1. Football: 1,006,013 participants (most popular sport in 43 states)
  2. Track and Field, Outdoor: 605,354 (most popular sport in three states)
  3. Basketball: 540,769 (most popular sport in two states)
  4. Baseball: 482,740
  5. Soccer: 459,077 (most popular sport in two states)
  6. Cross Country: 269,295
  7. Wrestling: 247,441
  8. Tennis: 159,314
  9. Golf: 143,200
  10. Swimming and Diving: 136,638

For girls, track and field is the most popular sport, with 488,267 participants. It’s the most popular sport for girls in 16 states. While volleyball, the second most popular sport for girls, has fewer participants, it’s the most popular sport in 21 states in the country.

These are the 10 most popular high school sports for girls:

  1. Track and Field: 488,267 (most popular sport in 16 states)
  2. Volleyball: 452,808 (most popular sport in 21 states)
  3. Basketball: 399,067 (most popular sport in two states)
  4. Soccer: 394,105 (most popular sport in nine states)
  5. Softball: 362,038 (most popular sport in one state)
  6. Cross Country: 219,345
  7. Tennis: 189,436
  8. Swimming and Diving: 173,088
  9. Cheerleading: 161,358 (most popular sport in one state)
  10. Lacrosse: 99,750

The Benefits of High School Sports

You may be looking at your high school sports to play and wondering what the benefits of playing on a competitive sports team are. There are many ways that playing a sport can improve students’ lives!

  • It helps students stay active and relieve stress. High school can be a stressful time for teenagers. Participating in a sport can help them blow off steam and get some much-needed exercise. There's no shortage of sports to play.
  • It teaches students responsibility and accountability. Students who participate in sports must show up to practice on time and complete whatever tasks are asked of them. They have to be prepared for their next game, match, or race so that they don’t let their team down.
  • It’s a great way to make friends. Sports teams bring together students who may not have otherwise crossed paths. Working together to achieve a common goal helps strengthen bonds and build camaraderie on and off the mat.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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