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Football participation declines nationally and in state

For the second consecutive year, participation in 11-player high school football declined nationwide, according to the annual survey by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

In 2017, there were 1,035,942 high school students participating in 11-player football, a decline of 21,465, or 2 percent, from the previous year. In 2016, the decline was 27,865, or 2.5 percent.

New York state has seen less of a decline, with participation down less than 1 percent in each of the last two years, but that followed a 9 percent drop after the 2014-15 academic year. The number of schools in the state fielding 11-man football teams fell from 571 in 2016 to 536 in 2017.

Nationally, football remains the No. 1 participatory sport for boys by a wide margin. No. 2 is track and field with 600,097.

Track and field leads for girls with 488,097.

In 2017, 20 fewer schools fielded 11-player football teams, or 14,079 compared with 14,099 in 2016. The survey showed an increase in six-man and eight-man football.

“We are encouraged that the decline in high school football was slowed, due in part, to our efforts in reducing the risk of injury in the sport,” said Karissa Niehoff, the NFHS executive director, in a statement. “While there may be other reasons that students elect not to play football, we have attempted to assure student-athletes and their parents that thanks to the concussion protocols and rules in place in every state in the country, the sport of football is as safe as it ever has been.”

For the 29th consecutive year, participation in high school sports overall increased, led by an increase of 15,009 in girls sports programs.

The total number of participants reached 7,979,986. The number of girls participating reached an all-time high of 3,415,306 and boys were at 4,564,680. Among boys sports, soccer had the largest gain with 6,128 additional participants.

New York remains third behind Texas and California in number of athletes participating in high school sports with 378,065, up from 367,849 in 2016.

-- Staff and wire service report

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