Participation in high-school athletics saw a decline for the first time in decades last year, and Washington was no different.

The National Federation of State High School Association, the national governing body of high-school sports, released participation numbers for the 2018-19 school year Monday. The Indianapolis-based organization reported a decline of 43,395 participants nationally, the first time it saw a decline in 30 years (1988-89).

The NFHS reported 7,980,886 participants in 2018-19. By gender, it broke down to 4,534,758 boys and 3,402,733 girls.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association released its participation numbers Thursday. The WIAA reported 175,783 participants (94,164 boys, 79,764 girls), a decline of 1,396 from 2017-18.

“We know from recent surveys that the number of kids involved in youth sports has been declining, and a decline in the number of public school students has been predicted for a number of years, so we knew our ‘streak’ might end someday,” NFHS Executive Director Dr. Karissa Niehoff said in a news release. “The data from this year’s survey serves as a reminder that we have to work even harder in the coming years to involve more students in these vital programs — not only athletics but performing arts programs as well.”

The NFHS numbers showed the biggest decline came in football and basketball. Eleven-man football declined by 30,829 players. Combined (boys and girls) basketball numbers decreased by 23,944 players to 399,067, which is the lowest since 1992-93, according to the NFHS.


The NFHS said it was the fifth consecutive year football participation numbers have dropped. But, football still has more participation from boys than any other sport.

Washington, which ranks 15th nationally in participation, saw a decline in the same sports. Football was down nearly 5,000 participants and basketball fell over 1,500.

The WIAA reported increases in participation of cross country, track and field and wrestling for boys and bowling, track and field and wrestling for girls.

Nationally, track and field saw the biggest increase in participation for boys, and volleyball was the biggest for girls. Soccer and wrestling also saw an increase for both genders.