Last year, participation in high school sports declined for the first time in 30 years, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. Before this drop, participation had been rising each year for three decades. In the NFHS data, if a student playing more than one sport stopped playing one, that counted as one fewer athlete in the total.

Robert Faulkens, assistant commissioner at the Indiana High School Athletic Association, said school enrollment numbers impact rates of participation.

“We’re coming off of a boom of kids in high school, so the less kids in high school, the less participation in general,” Faulkens said.

Local high schools are beating the odds compared to the national drop.

At Bloomington High School South, in the 2018-19 school year, 890 students played a sport, which is more than half of all students enrolled.

Bloomington High School North athletic participation has remained steady as well, ranging between 700 and 800 athletes a year. The oldest data available for both high schools is from the 2015-16 school year.

When looking at the data available, North reached a peak of 801 athletes last school year. That’s nearly half of the total student body. That peak number of student athletes happened regardless of it not being the year with the highest enrollment since 2015-16.

Andy Hodson, athletic director at North, and Faulkens both said having more options for different sports also impacts numbers. Sometimes students participate in many sports due to the range of options, Faulkens said.

Over the years, MCCSC high schools have added sports like unified track, which is a sport for students with and without intellectual disabilities. Last school year, unified track had 24 participants at North and 39 at South.

While local high schools are adding sports, around the country, some public schools are not offering interscholastic sports at all. Schools with high levels of poverty, and therefore less resources, are less likely to offer sports.

According to research published by the Women's Sports Foundation in July, almost a quarter of public high schools in the 2015-16 school year did not offer sports. In the 1999-2000 school year, that number was just 11.3%.
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