Iowa athletic participation

Contact: Richard Wulkow, Executive Director

Bud Legg, Information Director

Ninth Straight Year in the Top 20
Iowa Students’ Athletic Participation Ranks 19th in the Nation

Participation in Iowa high school sports continued to parallel several national trends for the last school year. The figures come from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) annual survey of the nation’s high schools. The report is for the 2009-10 school year.

Iowa’s 142,997 participant total – 84,269 boys and 58,701 girls – ranked 19th nationally and marked the ninth straight year in the top 20. The state ranks 39th in the number of people. The 18 states ahead of Iowa’s participation numbers are larger and more densely populated states.

Upon reviewing the latest figures, Iowa High School Athletic Association executive director Rick Wulkow expressed, “The figures and the survey certainly endorse the value of education-based activities. It also speaks volumes for the pride and commitment our students, coaches, schools and communities exhibit in their activities programs.”

Mr. Wulkow also added, “I am extremely proud to know that our students take advantage of the values they receive through participation in activities. In Iowa these activities are truly the other half of education.”

Football and volleyball rank as the top participation sports for Iowa boys and girls respectively. Track and field is second for each gender.

Given the participation figures and factoring in enrollments it is estimated that over 82% of Iowa high school students are engaged in at least one sport and over 70% are in multiple activities.

The top participation sports in Iowa for each gender follow in the table below with the national rank of the sport in parenthesis.


Boys' Sport (National Rank)   Iowa Participants
1. Football (1)                          21,098
2. Track & Field (2)                     11,889
3. Basketball (3)                        11,183
4. Baseball (4)                          11,268
5. Wrestling (6)                          6,665
6. Golf (9)                               6,150
7. Soccer (5)                             5,710
8. Cross Country (7)                      4,837
9. Tennis (8)                             2,789
10. Swimming (10)                         1,510
11. Bowling (NR)                          1,353

Girls' Sport (National Rank)  Iowa Participants

1. Volleyball (3)                        12,434
2. Track & Field (1)                      9,435
3. Softball (4)                           8,961
4. Basketball (2)                         8,556
5. Soccer (5)                             5,089
6. Cross Country (6)                      4,338
7. Golf (10)                              3,563
8. Tennis (7)                             3,412
9. Swimming & Diving (8)                  1,620
10. Bowling (NR)                          1,130

Note: survey does not take into account multiple sport athletes. Each sport is treated separately.

Despite cutbacks in funding in many high schools across the country, participation in high school sports has never been higher – increasing for the 20th consecutive year and establishing records for both girls and boys participants.

Based on figures from the 50 state high school athletic/activity associations, plus the District of Columbia, that are members of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), participation for the 2009-10 school year set an all-time high of 7,628,377, according to the survey. In addition, girls and boys participation figures reached all-time highs with 3,172,637 girls and 4,455,740 boys taking part in programs.

Based on the survey, it was also determined that 55.2 percent of students enrolled in high schools participate in athletics – a slight increase from last year’s 54.8 percent.