MHSAA continues to see sports rebound from COVID year

Published 10:09 am Monday, July 17, 2023

EAST LANSING — Participation in Michigan High School Athletic Association-sponsored sports increased for the second-straight school year in 2022-23, continuing its recovery from a COVID-related decline and despite another decrease in school enrollment among the MHSAA’s 750 member high schools.

A total of 268,071 participants were counted across the 28 sports for which the MHSAA sponsors postseason tournaments — a 2.7-percent increase from 2021-22 as participation has grown a combined 9.9 percent from a drastic downturn in 2020-21 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2022-23 increase of 2.7 percent also came as enrollment at MHSAA member schools fell 3.2 percent from the previous year. More specifically, boys participation rose 3.4 percent to 156,501 participants, despite a 2.9-percent decrease in boys enrollment. Girls participation rose 1.7 percent to 111,570 participants despite a 3.4-percent enrollment dip. MHSAA participation totals count students once for each sport in which they participate, meaning students who are multiple-sport athletes are counted more than once.

A total of 18 sports saw increases in participation in 2022-23 compared to 2021-22, with wrestling the largest gainer by 15.7 percent to 10,477 athletes — a rise in part attributable to a 41-percent increase in girls participation to 874 wrestlers, which coincided with the second year of the MHSAA sponsoring a girls-only division at its individual finals. This year’s wrestling total was the sport’s highest since 2012-13.

Boys bowling enjoyed the next largest increase at 8.1 percent to 4,417 participants. Five more sports saw increases in participation by at least five percent over the previous school year — girls track & field (5.6 percent to 16,470 participants), boys lacrosse (5.6 percent to 5,038), girls lacrosse (5.3 percent to 3,215), girls bowling (5.3 percent to 2,826) and football (5.2 percent to 34,997).

Also enjoying increases in participation during the 2022-23 school year were boys track & field (up 4.9 percent from 2021-22), girls competitive cheer (3.5 percent), boys basketball (3.2), girls tennis (2.9), girls volleyball (2.5), girls skiing (2.0), girls basketball (1.4), boys golf (1.3), boys soccer (0.9), baseball (0.8) and girls soccer (0.3). Of the eight sports that did see declines in 2022-23, four experienced decreases in participation that were lower than the 3.2-percent decrease in enrollment at MHSAA member schools — boys ice hockey (-1.4 percent), boys cross country and boys tennis (both -0.9 percent) and softball (-0.7).

Football, with a combined 34,997 participants over the 11 and 8-player formats, remained the most-played sport during the 2022-23 school year in posting its highest total of athletes since 2018-19. Boys track & field (23,211) and boys basketball (20,663) were next for total participants, followed by girls volleyball (19,270) — which remained the most popular girls sport – and then baseball (16,663) and girls track & field (16,470).

For the second-straight year, girls skiing (854 athletes) posted its highest participation total since 1998-99. Boys golf (6,916) joined wrestling in posting its highest total since 2012-13, and girls volleyball enjoyed its highest participation since 2017-18. Boys track & field, girls track & field and baseball all posted their highest participation totals since 2018-19.

The participation figures are gathered annually from MHSAA member schools to submit to the National Federation of State High School Associations for compiling of its national participation survey. Results of Michigan surveys from the 2000-01 school year to present may be viewed on the MHSAA website — — by clicking on Schools > Administrators > Sports Participation Listing.