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Most Popular High School Sports (U.S.)

Name the sports with the highest rate of participation in American high schools.
For 2016-2017 Source
Change = since 2010-11
Last updated: December 22, 2017
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Participants
Change
Boys' Sport
1,086,720
-4.3%
Football
682,308
6.6%
Track & Field
550,305
1.9%
Basketball
491,790
4.1%
Baseball
450,234
14.9%
Soccer
244,804
-11.3%
Wrestling
266,271
11.1%
Cross Country
183,732
-4.2%
Tennis
141,466
-11.3%
Golf
138,364
5.3%
Swimming & Diving
111,842
23.4%
Lacrosse
58,154
14.8%
Volleyball
Participants
Change
Girls' Sport
566,899
7.1%
Track & Field
447,263
10.7%
Volleyball
430,368
-2.1%
Basketball
388,339
9.0%
Soccer
374,528
-4.4%
Softball
226,039
11.9%
Cross Country
213,271
0.0%
Tennis
170,797
7.8%
Swimming & Diving
144,243
16.7%
Competitive Spirit Squads
93,473
35.9%
Lacrosse
75,605
6.7%
Golf
60,549
-4.8%
Field Hockey
+19
level 29
Nov 10, 2013
What on earth is "competitive spirit squads"??...and I'm surprised there's no hockey
+7
level 57
Nov 10, 2013
Cheerleading, generally.
+6
level 73
Nov 10, 2013
that's the only one I missed, too. Surprised gymnastics didn't make either list.
+3
level 73
Nov 10, 2013
especially on the girls' side. Would have expected that to at least edge out golf.
+7
level 71
Nov 10, 2013
Me too, was very surprised to see golf and not gymnastics. I love "competitive spirit squads"; is that supposed to make "cheerleading" sound more respectable?
+2
level 73
Nov 10, 2013
To be fair I think that certain schools do take it to a different level and they are not simply leading cheers anymore. And, given how much smaller the cheerleading numbers are than the football numbers, maybe the schools that do not compete on this level are not even included. Still, is that a sport? Is drill team and color guard a sport, too?
+1
level 22
Nov 15, 2013
Many schools don't have the funding to have a full-fledged gymnastics team, therefore it's not a common HS sport even though it may be more common in general.
+2
level 73
Nov 17, 2013
but isn't golf pretty expensive, too?
+2
level 74
Mar 10, 2015
There's a big debate going on currently whether or not cheerleading is officially a sport. It has come a long way from simple cheers to rally the team. Many participants are sustaining serious injuries as they push the boundaries in competitions. A federal judge has ruled it is not a sport. The participants are athletes, but cheerleading is not a sport because they do not compete. However, there are cheerleading teams which engage in competitions, therefore calling them "competitive spirit squads" sort of toes them over the line into fitting the definition of a competitive sport. Or maybe not. I got the correct answer so I'm happy.
+1
level 75
Nov 10, 2015
I've never heard of gymnastics in a school. That is usually strictly an off-campus activity, like martial arts. And other sports of special interest of course.
+2
level 63
Jan 15, 2016
In Indiana, girls gymnastics is one of the 10 IHSAA sports.
+1
level 73
Jan 15, 2016
Lots of boys and girls competing in gymnastics at the schools I went to.
+1
level 15
Jan 19, 2017
:l
+1
level 44
Mar 20, 2018
Cheer is not a sport. I'm not saying it's not challenging or not competitive, it's just not a sport. To be a sport, scoring has to be objective, not subjective. A team of judges evaluating how well someone did something is different than a ref stating an object crossed a line before or after another event occurred. If you still disagree, answer this: Is Marching Band a sport?
+5
level 60
Apr 4, 2018
Quizface. So using you're objective/subjective argument would you classify something like diving as "not a sport"? It's in the Olympics and multiple judges make a subjective assessment on the quality of the dive. I don't think every sport have a purely objective outcome.
+2
level 48
Apr 4, 2018
QuizFace: Cheer can be quantified in much the same way gymnastics, dance, figure skating, etc. are - each move can have a points score applied for technical skill and the artistic quality can be judged too. You could even have required elements to judge teams like for like. Just because that isn't the case presently, doesn't mean it couldn't be done, which would then legitimise it as a sport. Cheer and Marching Band aren't really comparable since the primary function of Band is to provide music - marching is secondary. Cheer requires a level of physical skill that isn't demanded of Band players.
+3
level 60
Apr 4, 2018
Yeah, uhm, by saying scoring has to be objective, you're ruling quite a lot of olympic disciplines out of the sports category as well. Figure skating, diving, synchronised swimming, trampoline, even ski jumping. That doesn't really make sense.
+2
level 48
Apr 5, 2018
To the people saying that cheerleading is not a sport, because it is subjective and not objective - why are you not complaining about diving and gymnastics then? They also are sports that are awarded scores from a panel of judges based on how well each judge THINKS the participant did. Stop being so pathetic - I don't see anyone here trying to discredit a boy's sport from being considered a real sport.
+1
level 74
Apr 30, 2016
In many states, "Poms" is a separate activity, as is "Dance Team", neither of which do any "cheering", they do vigorous high energy choreographed dance performances, and are judged not on how pretty they are but on doing moves precisely, and doing difficult and complicated combinations. So it's a whole lot like gymnastics or martial arts (sometimes it even involves the moms punching and kicking each other!)
+1
level 56
Jul 12, 2018
I keep learning new things on this site. I always thought that "Poms" was a pejorative Aussie word for Brits.
+2
level 69
Sep 13, 2016
My girls were both cheerleaders, and I am telling you, it IS a sport! Competitive cheerleading is nothing like what you see at football games – that's just a light practice for them. Go to YouTube and search on "national cheerleading competition", and it'll blow your mind. They toss people 15 feet in the air, do crazy gymnastics, and have epic stamina. My definition of a sport is that it has to involve some sort of physical prowess, but it's a truly burly sport if they're also risking physical injury. Cheerleaders could easily snap their damn spines… it's awesome! :-)
+1
level 15
Jan 19, 2017
there is its called Field Hockey
+1
level 32
Apr 4, 2018
many cheer teams not only cheer for the school, but also go to cheer competitions
+1
level 59
Apr 4, 2018
I bust out laughing when Cheerleading came up as that. I'm still giggling actually. I don't think it would have occured to me to put golf in, down-side of growing up outside America, we only know of the sports that feature on TV shows.
+1
level 58
Apr 5, 2018
Cheerleading. Sounds like a "PC" version of the name. Not sure what is wrong with the word cheerleading, but I am sure someone is offended by it.
+1
level 22
Nov 10, 2013
I scored 100% (most of my scores are average or above but 100's are rare and far between ) it helped that I taught high school for 2 years and Jr. High for 16. I am from South Texas and we do not have wrestling here but I knew it was popular up North. Cross Country took me the longest because I was thinking of Track and almost gave up before I thought of it.
+3
level 35
Nov 10, 2013
Cross country is clearly a form of track and field.
+12
level 68
Nov 10, 2013
No it's not, since it's a fall sport, runs longer distances, has a completely different scoring method, and it's not on a goddamn track.
+2
level 73
Nov 16, 2013
yeah.... I think track and field by definition has to be a sport that you can perform on the field of a stadium or the track that runs around the perimeter of the field. Cross country definitely doesn't fit that description.
+2
level 6
Feb 18, 2017
Yes, this is my sport, so I'll pretend to have some expertise in it. It is long distance running. Races are like, all 5K's or close. It's a point system as well. First runner across the finish line gets one point. Next runner gets 2, and so on. So, hypothetically, the perfect score would be fifteen. Never actually seen it though. And XC is in the fall.
+1
level 32
Nov 11, 2013
In that case, why don't you just accept "Running" for Track and Field, considering that is about...let's see, 100% of the events in that category?
+5
level 34
Nov 11, 2013
Track and field also includes jumping and throwing.... Hence the "field" part of "track and field"
+1
level 77
Nov 16, 2015
Typical high school meet has 6 pure running events, 2 or 3 hurdles races, 2 relays and 7 field events. It is not just "running."
+1
level 58
Jan 15, 2016
Running entered my mind as well but after looking for a translation cause I thought "what the heck is track and field???" I agree that just "running" should not be accepted. I used to do track and field butjust didn't know it was called that in English.
+1
level 74
Apr 30, 2016
If a kid said he/she was on the "running" team, you wouldn't believe them. It's like Ted Cruz telling an Indiana crowd about the basketball "ring".
+1
level 17
Nov 11, 2013
Can you accept "swim" for "swimming and diving" - you accept track, so why not?
+1
level 24
Dec 21, 2013
What about lacrosse?
+1
level 68
Jan 18, 2014
Obviously it didn't make the list.
+1
level 26
May 31, 2014
HAHA
+1
level 49
Jan 17, 2015
its not widespread like other sports like football and baseball/soccer basketball etc I dont wanna give away all the answers
+1
level ∞
Nov 8, 2015
I expanded the list by a couple. Lacrosse qualifies now!
+1
level 56
Jan 15, 2016
Best game/sport ever!
+1
level 14
Apr 4, 2014
hunna
+2
level 70
Apr 26, 2014
GOLF?? In school? Are you kidding me? OK, perhaps it's just because I'm Canadian and such a thing would not even be thinkable with our climate, but my mind is totally boggled.
+1
level 68
Jan 15, 2016
I'm from Northern California and golf has been popular in school for a long, long time. Not just in the Tiger Woods era either.
+1
level 74
Jan 16, 2016
Golf was popular at my school in the 1960s.
+1
level 6
Feb 18, 2017
Yeah, it makes no sense to me either. A lot of my friends try out and stuff, but that seems... well...
+1
level 55
Apr 4, 2018
I played golf in high school. It was awesome.
+2
level 79
Jun 27, 2014
Soccer didn't even enter my mind. I already answered football! :)
+1
level 66
Nov 4, 2014
It's a US quiz, sillie. Football and soccer are totally different animals in the US. :D
+1
level 79
Nov 23, 2015
Elsewhere: football = football and soccer doesn't exist :D

How about just "hockey" for field hockey?
+1
level 66
Jan 6, 2016
Hockey and field hockey are also totally different animals. Just plain "hockey" refers to ice hockey while field hockey is on a field of dirt/grass/turf. :D
+1
level 46
Jan 15, 2016
Thank you Archer for 'Lacrosse'.
+1
level 52
Jan 15, 2016
It's really a great game. A violent sport that won't bash your brain into little pieces like football will.
+1
level 27
Jan 15, 2016
accept hockey man
+1
level 53
Jan 15, 2016
Don't like how it didn't accept hockey for field hockey! I wasn't expecting all US high schools to have an ice rink in the sports hall! Not bad getting 13/15 for an Englishman though. At high school we played football but that was actual football, what you call football we did rugby, baseball suppose we called rounders or just played cricket! Didn't think of softball though but I did try handball. Don't do either where I'm from so I'll take that
+1
level 58
Jan 15, 2016
Why didn't the quiz accept "hockey" for "field hockey"?
+1
level 46
Jan 15, 2016
What the HELL is field hockey?
+1
level 37
Jan 15, 2016
It's the same thing as hockey but no ice
+1
level 40
Apr 2, 2017
I thought People Knew About it, Honestly, Ice Hocket isn't the only one... >:(
+1
level 66
Jan 15, 2016
Please accept "hockey" for field hockey.
+1
level 57
Jan 15, 2016
In Australia there is no such thing as "Field Hockey", we just call it hockey, which is what I typed as a long shot; and it wasn't accepted. I thought ice hockey would be in there. It's really popular in the states, isn't it?
+1
level 58
Jan 15, 2016
Not so much. There are small areas where it is very popular but not widespread.
+1
level 74
Jul 12, 2018
Professional hockey is popular, but not many schools, - especially in the warmer states - have access to an ice rink.
+1
level 58
Jan 15, 2016
Completely forgot about tennis.
+1
level 47
Jan 15, 2016
As a canadian I am highly surprised theres no hockey on this list
+1
level 57
Jan 15, 2016
Can u accept hockey for field hockey?
+1
level 35
Jan 15, 2016
You should accept hockey for field hockey.
+1
level 68
Jan 15, 2016
Why isn't hockey accepted for field hockey?
+8
level ∞
Jan 16, 2016
Okay, you wore me down. Hockey will work now. But I don't like it. In the U.S. when someone says hockey, they are referring to ice hockey.
+1
level 75
Jan 15, 2016
For all you people complaining about "hockey" not being an acceptable answer for field hockey, you do realize that "hockey" by itself is not an actual sport. There is no sport that is just called hockey. There's field hockey, ice hockey, roller hockey, sledge hockey, street hockey, and so on and so forth.
+1
level 75
Aug 2, 2016
This calls for this song. All you hockey arguers will appreciate it. https://andrewqueen.bandcamp.com/track/hockey-song
+1
level 74
Jul 12, 2018
That's a lotta hockey.
+2
level 50
Jan 15, 2016
Why isn't marching band considered a sport? There are marching band competitions and it's definitely physically rigorous.
+2
level 66
Jan 16, 2016
Agreed. It's as much a sport as cheerleading is.
+1
level 74
Apr 30, 2016
But I don't think it would make the list. Most serious marching band participants doing the kind of vigorous work you're talking about do it through a club, not at their high school. And in a lot of states/cities, it has been cut from the curriculum.
+1
level 74
Apr 4, 2018
It's difficult to know where to draw the line between sports and performance art. Marching bands do engage in field competitions as well as street competitions, but is their main focus on the physical competitions or on the music? It's the same with drill teams and dance teams. They are physical in their movements but they are also artistic. I'm not sure that makes them a sport. I was a member of marching band in high school and I never thought of it as a sport, but I can see both sides of the argument. Again, where do you draw the line? Some schools don't have football and their bands only march once or twice a year in parades and play concerts. Their focus is much more on learning music. Maybe calling those bands who do the rigorous field competitions by a different name - competitive musical field performance or something similar would solve the issue. One could argue that singers do physical workouts with their voices, but I can't see calling choir a sport, either.
+1
level 66
Jan 16, 2016
How in the hell did I miss soccer? Ugh.
+1
level 73
Jan 17, 2016
I'm surprised it's as far up the list as it is... when I was going to public school soccer was pretty much exclusively a sport for five or six year old children, and sometimes girls.
+1
level 46
Jan 17, 2016
for those of you that care boys ice hockey was the highest number of participants (35,393) of the sports that were not listed on this quiz. I thought the number would be higher but I guess junior hockey takes away from the number of kids playing it in high schools. Or it may be that I live in hockey crazed Massachusetts. And yes Bobby Orr can still walk on water!!
+1
level 46
Jan 17, 2016
How about this for why bother: there is only one school under each male and female offering pentathlon with four participants listed for each gender. They must have a real tough time making up a schedule each year. Can anyone say private school?
+1
level 28
Jan 17, 2016
if we were talking about around the world i doubt basketball and american football would make the list. soccer is the best
+3
level 75
Aug 2, 2016
American football yes. But basketball? It's huge worldwide. Not as big as soccer, but might be the next biggest.
+1
level 35
Jan 17, 2016
Well, no wonder swimming's more popular with girls than boys!
+1
level 75
Jun 10, 2016
Coming from the UK, I found this quite difficult. Almost every sport I thought of seemed to be particular to Britain. Netball - nope. Cricket and rounders - replaced by baseball. Etc.
+2
level 40
Apr 3, 2017
go cricket
+1
level 75
Feb 4, 2018
Cricket is great - rounders is better.
+1
level 31
Jan 4, 2017
Silly me thinking swim would work for swimming
+1
level 47
Jul 8, 2017
Drill team should be accepted for competitive spirit squads. That's what some are called here.
+1
level 60
Jul 10, 2017
I guess sex, like chess, is a just a game to you people!
+1
level 34
Aug 11, 2017
Can you accept NFL for american football??
+3
level 53
Feb 23, 2018
No, because this is high school sports. Hopefully there aren't any high schoolers in the NFL...
+1
level 70
Oct 11, 2017
What, no buzkashi??!!!
+3
level 61
Nov 15, 2017
Marching band should be on here. Let the arguments begin.
+2
level ∞
Dec 22, 2017
Prediction for 2050: Soccer will be #1 for both genders. Ultimate frisbee will be in the top 10. Wrestling and softball/baseball will fall by over 50%.
+3
level 53
Feb 23, 2018
Nooooo! Oklahoma State's twenty-three meaningless wrestling titles will be even more meaningless!
+1
level 64
Apr 4, 2018
Won't cricket have taken over by then?
+1
level 73
Apr 4, 2018
You may be right but I doubt soccer will pass football just because of the numbers and that we are only 30 years from that date. Most high schools over 150 per class already have multiple levels of soccer (Varsity, JV, freshman). With 20 kids per squad that's only 60 to 80 per high school. A high school of that size will usually have 50 kids just on the varsity football team. Throw in the other levels and you'll get 120 or so kids. I don't think there is enough time for it to catch up given it's huge lead. Especially when you consider that it probably won't grow as aggressively in the past 20 years as it has reached it's theoretical maximum participant size in many schools. To get soccer past football lost of schools will have to drop the sport entirely.
+1
level 74
Jul 12, 2018
Don't forget competitive video gaming. If it's accepted into the Olympics a lot of previous arguments about whether this or that qualifies as a sport will be shot to heck.
+1
level 53
Feb 23, 2018
I think Track & Field should encompass Cross Country and they shouldn't be separate. Otherwise you should break out the track events like high jump, long jump, 100-yd dash, etc...???
+1
level 35
Apr 4, 2018
Is cross country on a track or a field?
+1
level 49
Apr 4, 2018
I graduated in 1994 and I just mentally tried to remember what sports were listed in my yearbook. We had most of them..no swim team but did have golf. Field hockey and lacrosse were huge in my school.
+1
level 49
Apr 4, 2018
Why is American rugby called football and football called soccer?
+3
level 35
Apr 4, 2018
Rugby and American football are fairly different
+2
level 74
Apr 4, 2018
Ask the Brits. They used the word soccer first as a short form of Association Football to distinguish it from "rugger" or Rugby Football. Americans got the word from them, and we kept using it since we were already calling another game football. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/06/why-we-call-soccer-soccer/372771/
+1
level 53
Apr 4, 2018
If competitive cheer is considered a sport for this list, so should marching band.
+1
level 63
Apr 4, 2018
Ultimate would totally be on there if schools sponsored it.
+2
level 27
Apr 4, 2018
Where is the Marching Band :-'(
+2
level 63
Apr 4, 2018
It was my first guess. I quit when it didn't come up.
+1
level 58
Apr 5, 2018
On the boys side, wrestling and cross country are out of order.
+1
level 70
Apr 8, 2018
(online) poker?
+1
level 36
Apr 10, 2018
Wait no ice hockey!? As a Canadian I'm disappointed.
+1
level 56
Jul 12, 2018
You should include fastball for softball. This is commonly used to distinguish "slow pitch" baseball from windmill style pitching which is the common sport for female baseball players.
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