California High School Sports Participation at All-Time High for Fourth Consecutive Year

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – High school sports participation continues to increase in California and is at an all-time high for the fourth consecutive year according to the 2016 California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Sports Participation Survey. Up by 0.85% since the previous survey in 2015, 779,256 student-athletes are competing in education-based athletic programs in California.

“Winning and losing in education-based athletics cannot, and must not, be the defining moment and purpose of CIF,” stated CIF Executive Director Roger L. Blake “The continued growth in education-based athletic participation means that more students than before are learning the life-long lessons achieved through high school sports.”

Along with the overall participation increase in high school athletics there were a few sports that saw noticeable increases across both genders. Volleyball saw the largest percentage increase, a combined 5.59% or 3,260 more participants (3.93% or 1,640 increase for girls; 9.79% or 1,620 for boys), followed by soccer with a 5.24% increase or 4,928 more participants (4.39% or 1,969 increase for girls; 6.0% or 2,959 increase for boys). Additionally, girls’ wrestling participation continues to increase, this year by 48.1% as 1,334 more girls are competing in the sport for 4,105 total participants as of 2016.

Football continues to lead the top 10 boys’ sports with 100,205 participants which decreased, by 3.39% (3,520 participants), for the first time since 2013. Track and field (55,877) is the second most popular sport, which increased participation by 1.85% since 2015 followed by soccer (52,266); basketball (45,685) and baseball (44,131) round out the top five boys’ sports.  Additionally for the second consecutive year, boys’ volleyball finishes out the top 10 boys’ sports with 18,173 participants.

For girls, soccer captured the top spot the first time since 2007 with 46,778 participants, ousting the former top 10 leader track and field (45,974 participants for a 1.19% or 541 increase). Volleyball still trails a close third (43,423), which increased participation by 3.93% since 2015, followed by basketball (34,386) and softball (33,366).

Also, the 2016 census gathered information regarding unified teams with 738 student-athletes currently participating in education-based athletics in California.

The CIF’s 1,581 member schools participated in the survey as part of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) nationwide survey that measures the number of students competing in sports in the country.

A chart indicating results from the last nine participation surveys is located in the link below. Only CIF-approved sports are listed individually. Also, a summary of the top 10 sports by gender, based on participation numbers, can be located on subsequent pages.

2016 CIF Participation Census Release (includes results from previous nine years)

4658 Duckhorn Drive - Sacramento, CA 95834

Phone: (916) 239-4477 Fax: (916) 239-4478 E-mail:

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