ROBBINSVILLE – The New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) is reporting that participation in high school athletics has increased by six percent during the past two school years. The increase boosted the total number of student-athletes at association member schools from 255,892 in 2010-2011 to 270,123 in 2012-2013.
With 434 public and non-public member high schools in New Jersey offering three athletic seasons and a total of 32 different boys and girls sports — along with many schools fielding teams at the varsity, junior varsity, and freshman levels — this trend of increased participation has every opportunity of continuing.
“The involvement of more schools and the expansion of athletic programs is creating greater opportunity for student-athletes to participate in a variety of sports,” explains Steve Timko, NJSIAA executive director. “The opportunity to join a team provides multiple benefits to young people, including offering a positive outlet for development of skills beyond the classroom.”
While the total number of participants has increased in many sports, the three that enjoyed the greatest upswing in the past two years are boys basketball, girls volleyball and indoor track for both boys and girls.
From 2010-2011 to 2012-2013, four additional schools established boys basketball programs, and total numbers skyrocketed from 12,741 student-athletes to 14,193 — an 11 percent spike. Girls volleyball participation expanded with 1,637 new participants between the 2010-2011 and 2012-2013 school years, an incredible 25 percent increase. As for indoor track, including boys and girls, it has added nearly 2,700 new participants.
“These numbers indicate an extensive, consistent expansion of the high school-based model of sports participation,” Timko adds. “This is the avenue clearly being chosen by the vast majority of student-athletes and their parents, and it’s a credit to those educators who proactively provide additional athletic opportunities for New Jersey’s young people.”
Since the 2010-2011 school year, less traditionally popular athletic opportunities have gained momentum. As an example, only three high school girls played football in New Jersey two years ago, while in 2012-2013, that number climbed to 21 participants.
The nation’s eighth largest state interscholastic athletic association, the NJSIAA offers more championship tournaments than does any other state association. It was the first association in the nation to conduct steroid testing, and the first to institute a comprehensive concussion program.
In addition, the NJSIAA oversees the activities of approximately 25,000 coaches and 10,000 officials.
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