But last school year, basketball dropped to the fourth-most-popular girls’ sport by participation, according to the data released this month by the National Federation of State High School Associations. Girls’ basketball has lost 19% of its players since 2002, while the top girls’ sport, track and field, grew 10%, along with volleyball (+15%) and soccer (+27%).
Though boys’ and girls’ high school sports participation overall declined 4% since 2019 in the first post-pandemic national survey, girls’ basketball dropped 7%.
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Several forces are driving the decline. More athletes are sticking to one sport nearly year-round. Schools have added other sports for girls, which have lured athletes away from basketball. Some girls see basketball as too difficult to play, or even not “girly” enough, coaches say.
“It’s sad,” said Erica Delley, first-year head coach at Dallas’s Kimball High School, which was a regional power when she played there in the early 2000s. “That’s why I came back, to make a difference and try to encourage kids to play.”