sports culture

Football (American) still king of high school sports

I don’t know many kids who play youth football. But in my local elementary school, tons of people play youth soccer. I saw some spreadsheets at one time from which it was easy to figure out that nearly half of the boys in second grade were playing.

But the death of high school football, Bob Cook reports, is greatly exaggerated.

One big reason:

Or it could be that football, like track and field, will always have high numbers because at most schools it’s one of the few sports in which nobody gets cut.

It’s easy math. A typical high school may have 50, 60 or even more football players on its varsity, then similar numbers on its junior varsity. Maybe even a C team or a “freshman” team. At a lot of high schools, previous football experience isn’t a prerequisite. They need the numbers.

High school soccer? Good luck. My town typically has 200 boys and 200 girls per grade level playing soccer. Roughly 30-40 percent of those kids will go to the same high school. That’s 60-80 per year. If you’re not playing travel soccer, it’s going to be really difficult to make the team.

Then you have the rituals, as Cook points out:

When I’ve picked up my son after he emerges from the locker room after a game, girls are there saying hi and telling him what a good job he did. This does not happen after his chess tournaments.

It’s Homecoming week at my son’s high school, and it’s a big, football-centered deal. I don’t recall my son getting his locker decorated because of his water polo participation, nor a cheerleader asking to wear his jersey on game day, though that might be because in water polo there was no homecoming, nor jerseys.

Anachronistic? We might think so, but it’s still going on.

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Categories: sports culture

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2 replies »

  1. I can’t agree with the “nobody gets cut” statement. Most high schools with big football programs make plenty of cuts.

    The main reason football is still king of high school sports is because there is no club alternative, as there is in soccer, basketball, volleyball, etc. Athletes in these other sports may play high school sports for fun, but the club teams is where the prestige is and what the college scouts go to see.

  2. That’s another reason, though only the very best players leave their high school teams to play club.

    Big football programs, sure. But how many of those are there? How many schools are scraping for bodies?

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