Girls’ participation in sports continues to grow

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By Mike Farner

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - According to the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA), interest and participation in high school sports in the Commonwealth continued to grow during the past school year.

In fact, more than 70,000 students took part in high school sports during the past school year from data collected from the member schools in the state and then reported to the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) as part of their annual participation survey.

During this past school year, all three Bullitt County High Schools sponsored teams in every sport supported by the KHSAA (Bullitt Central did not have a girls’ golf team, but they had a coach and tried to form a team). That will change next year as the decision has been made not to make a stipend available for fishing coaches for the upcoming season when the KHSAA adds that sport to its ever-growing list of activities along with archery and cheerleading which will be KHSAA events for 2012-13.

The NFHS reported that 40,103 boys and 30,774 girls were part of a high school level team in KHSAA sanctioned sports and sport-activities for 2011-12. This is the first time that the participation numbers were determined by school sport rosters as submitted electronically by the member schools.

As a comparison, during the 1989-90 school year, the numbers showed 32,886 boys and 18,286 girls involved in sports, although, there were fewer sports then. That is a roughly 20,000 student difference in two decades.

It is no surprise that the largest sport participation is football. Over the past 20 years, the numbers of football players has nearly doubled to 14,042 this past school year.

Baseball, basketball, soccer and track each had over 6,000 boys taking part  this year while basketball, soccer, softball, track and volleyball each had over 5,000 girls involved. Volleyball actually has the largest participation numbers for girls at 6,147, compared to 5,511 for basketball.

With the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the law that made equal access available in athletics available to females, being celebrated this month, the numbers left KHSAA administrators happy.

“I think our schools are really seeing the fruits of their labors with our emphasis on girls sports, and reporting and awareness related to Title IX,” said KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett. “In 1989-90 we had only basketball with more than 3,000 girls participating, and now we have five different sports with more than 5,000 participation slots in each.

“These opportunities show vast improvement for the girls in our schools but we still have plenty of work to do,” the Commissioner added. “I am particularly pleased with the fact that we have more than 6,000 students playing fast-pitch softball and more than 5,600 in girls’ soccer, two sports we didn’t have in 1989-90; and volleyball participation has exploded.”

Young people involved in athletics have been shown to be better students.

“Interscholastic sports is the absolute best opportunity to ensure students stay involved representing their school and maintain better academic and attendance records,” Tackett said. “All of those are critically important to the academic goals of our Commonwealth.”

The sport with the highest ‘school’ participation numbers is basketball with 271 schools involved in both boys’ and girls’ action.

Two sports, swimming and diving as well as tennis, actually have more girls involved than boys.

Some of the more ‘interesting’ numbers to look at might have a few local ties.

There were 14 female football players in the numbers. Bullitt County football teams have had female members in the past, but have not for several seasons. The wrestling numbers said that 23 females took part last season. One of those would have been from Bullitt County and the county has had three over the past two years.

The listing also included Competitive Spirit Squad (cheerleading) with 221 schools fielding teams (which is odd with 271 schools having basketball teams) with 4,221 girls and 174 boys involved. Both Bullitt Central and Bullitt East had Co-Ed cheer squads this past school year (and North Bullitt has at times in the past).

Competitive Cheer

Cheerleading, which has always been important and highly competitive locally, will become a KHSAA sanctioned sport for the upcoming school year.

In the past, cheerleading was under the umbrella of KAPOS (Kentucky Association of Pep Organization Sponsors), a group that has handed out state championships to Bullitt Central coed squads in the past.

The first KHSAA State Competitive Cheer championship is tentatively scheduled to be contested on Jan. 26, 2013 at Western Kentucky University’s E.A. Diddle Arena.

“While we are thrilled to be bringing competitive cheer under the umbrella of KHSAA sanctioned sport-activities, I would be remiss if we did not commend the folks at KAPOS for their outstanding work in making the competitive cheer programs across Kentucky a model for the entire nation,” Tackett said. “We plan to leverage the fifty plus years of their outstanding work and provide even more opportunities for these particular student-athletes.”

There will be two classes for cheerleading with the cut-off for the schools being at 800 students. That will put all three Bullitt County schools into the larger class.

Within each class teams will compete for championships in Girls Only divisions of Small (Minimum of six participants, maximum of 12) Medium (minimum of 13, maximum of 16), Large Girls Only (minimum of 17, maximum of 20) and Super Large (minimum of 21 and maximum of 24) divisions. Each enrollment class will also feature a coed division. To be considered coed, a team may have a minimum of six participants and a maximum of 24 but must feature at least two members of the opposite sex.