Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this article incorrectly said high school athletics participation declined nearly 20 percent in Montgomery County in 2008-09 from 2007-08. Participation levels increased from 21,739 to 21,756 in that time.
Sideline Report This Week in High School FOOTball

More Than Ever, Students Are Playing High School Sports

Old Dominion University has returned to football a winner, with a 3-0 record; it hadn't fielded a team since before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Fourteen players on its roster are from the Washington area.
Old Dominion University has returned to football a winner, with a 3-0 record; it hadn't fielded a team since before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Fourteen players on its roster are from the Washington area. (By L. Todd Spencer -- Virginian-pilot Via Associated Press)
By Alan Goldenbach
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Reporting on its data from the 2008-09 school year, the National Federation of State High School Associations says participation in high school sports, among boys and girls, increased to a new high -- the 20th consecutive year that number has risen. The federation lauded it as high school sports' ability to thrive in spite of the nation's struggling economy.

The survey showed that a greater percentage of high school students played a sport in 2008-09 (55.2 percent) than in 2007-08 (54.8 percent).

The sport with the biggest increase in participation from 2007-08 was swimming and diving, which saw a bump of 11.6 percent (289,060 overall). This might have been affected by Michael Phelps and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Lacrosse continued its ascent among teenagers, as high school participation increased 6.7 percent over the previous year.

Meanwhile, there was a decrease in the number of students playing boys' basketball (1.4 percent), girls' basketball (1.3 percent) and soccer (0.2 percent). Not surprisingly, football was the most popular sport, with 1,112,303 participants nationwide, nearly twice as many as the next most popular, track and field (558,007). Track and field supplanted basketball as the most popular girls' sport.

Dusting Off the Football

Helped in part by 14 players from the Washington area, including H.D. Woodson alumnus Craig Wilkins, Old Dominion University has revived its football program this fall after spending 68 years on the sideline, and it is wading back into competition. Fielding a team for the first time since 1940, Old Dominion is 3-0, having defeated Division II schools Chowan (N.C.) and Virginia Union, then last weekend Division I-AA Jacksonville, 28-27.

Wilkins, a redshirt freshman defensive back, had a team-high seven tackles for the Monarchs in the win over Jacksonville. Wilkins is the Monarchs' third-leading tackler, with 19, including one for a loss. He also has a team-high two interceptions (tied with teammates Don Smith and Devon Simmons) and a sack. Sophomore defensive lineman Chad King (Mount Vernon) had four stops for losses and a sack in last weekend's win.

The other 12 Washington area players on Old Dominion's squad are Gerald Anderson (LB, Handley), Kai Blanco (TE, Mount Vernon), Bobby Cooper (QB, South River), John Darr (LB, Suitland), Carlos Davis (WR, Friendly), Robbie Duncan (OL, Park View), Chris Lovitt (WR, Colonial Forge), Bryan Morrison (OL, Broad Run), Erik Saylor (DL, Urbana), Andrew Slebonik (DE, North Stafford), Brady Travers (K-P, Colonial Forge) and Michael Williams (DL, Forest Park).

On Saturday evening, Old Dominion returns home to face Monmouth, which has also recruited the Washington area hard, landing 11 players on this season's roster, including sophomore quarterback Kyle Frazier (Damascus). Splitting time as the Hawks' starter, Frazier was 7 of 12 for 92 yards last week as the Hawks beat Duquesne, 17-10. The clinching score came on a 65-yard interception return for a touchdown by junior safety Kendall Haley (Good Counsel) midway through the fourth quarter.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company