UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on high school sports, leaving many administrators at all levels worrying about participation numbers on the other side. On Wednesday, September 14th, The National Federation Of State High School Associations, or NFHS, released their first National High School Sports Participation Survey in three years and the results surprised even those who were compiling the data.

There were 7,618,054 total participants in high school sports across the country in 2021-22, with New York coming in sixth of the 50 states, less than half of a percentage point behind Pennsylvania and Illinois. While that number seems large, it is a drop from the last poll taken by NFHS in 2018-19, but only by 4%, much less than the organization had expected after many schools were forced to stop or discontinue athletic programs due to the pandemic. 

Although there was a drop in total numbers, there was growth for some sports in the last three years, 6, 8, and 9 player football registered a 12 percent growth with small schools moving to the abridged versions of the sport, boys and girls golf both registered increases, 4% for the boys and 1% for the girls, and boys and girls volleyball both went up in numbers. 

The biggest uptick in numbers though goes to Unified and Adapted sports. In the three years since the last poll, 10 more states have added Unified sports and the participation in those sports has gone up 163%, from just under 8,000 total to now exceeding 55,500.