Before COVID-19 forced the shutdown of the spring 2020 high school sports season back in March, enough student-athletes had signed up for their respective sports to mark another increase in sports participation.

For the past eight years, the California Interscholastic Federation has reported increases every year in overall high school sports participation.

Soccer and track and field are among the most popular for both boys and girls, with 103,683 California student-athletes playing soccer in the 2019-20 season. Boys soccer drew 55,036 athletes, representing a steady increase every year since 2012, and 48,647 girls played soccer, making it the most popular girls sport.

Boys track and field drew 57,302 athletes in 2020 before the season came to a premature end, representing a 3.55% increase from the year before. Girls track and field drew 45,318 athletes, a slight increase from the year before, making for a total of 102,620 athletes, both boys and girls, in track and field.

The top sport in terms of total participants is boys 11-player football, with 89,756 players competing in the 2019-20 season. That represents a steady decline in the popularity of football, which is down 1.69% from the previous year and down more than 12% since the 2012-13 season.

The popularity of volleyball keeps that sport in the top three for girls, along with soccer and track and field, with 46,495 girls playing volleyball in 2019-20. Girl volleyball participation has grown steadily, up about 15% from 2012-13.

Girls basketball had been growing each year up until 2019-20, when 34,368 girls played, a decrease of 4.27% from the previous year.

The fastest-growing sport among boys is volleyball, which had 23,556 players for 2019-20, up nearly 6% from the previous year and up more than 48 percent since 2011-12. Boys volleyball was a new sport at Mountain House High in 2016, and Kimball, Millennium and Delta Charter created teams in 2017, followed by West and Tracy in 2019.

The fastest-growing sport in the state for girls is lacrosse with 10,737 athletes in 2019-20, up 9.11% from last year and nearly double the number who played in 2011-12 (5,432), an increase of nearly 98%.

Contact Bob Brownne at, or call 209-830-4227.

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