11 Dec 2015

Fall Sports End with Record Numbers of Students in Athletics and Fans in Aluminum Bleachers

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football players take the field

Football players take the field

The 2015 fall high school sports season is now over for the most part and parents, siblings and friends will have left those stadium aluminum bleachers after an exhausting schedule of cheering and supporting players in several sports and a record-setting number of student athletes overall.

Fall is a special season for high school sports. For one, it’s a time when students first return to school, revved up after a summer of relative dormancy hanging out at the beach or hanging out on the couch.

Secondly, some of the most popular sports with the largest number of participants and spectators takes place in the fall – football, soccer and cross country.

When you consider all these students battling on the fields and all those spectators perched in the aluminum bleachers, the numbers can be just mind-boggling.

Here are some astonishing statistics from the National Federation of State High School Associations to consider.

Number of Boys per Major Fall Sport:

Football – 1,083,617

Soccer – 432,569

Cross Country – 250,981

More than 14,000 high schools have boy’s football programs. That’s a lot of “Friday Night Lights” taking place all over the country every week.

Consider all the people who are involved – coaches, referees, concession stand workers, police, EMTs, etc.

Consider the economic activity this generates – money spent on gas, uniforms, cleats and microwaved nachos smothered with cheese.

Number of Girls per Fall Sport:

Soccer – 375,681

Cross Country – 221,616

Field Hockey – 60,549

Football – 1,565

Those are also big numbers.

Now, think about the enormous number of spectators who are perched on those bleachers watching all these kids.

Take football for example. There are some 50 players on a team. Multiply that by say 10 spectators per player – mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, little sis, little brother and all the students who attend.

That’s a rough estimate of 54 million spectators filling those stadium bleachers. That’s a ballpark estimate – the true number is probably much, much higher.

Now think about this – in 2014 only about 17.3 million people attended an NFL game. A BIG difference.

This is just football. Add in ALL the other sports as well.

aluminum bleachers on field

Aluminum bleachers

That’s a lot of humans sitting in those grandstands every week.

It’s not just all about the big sports either.

There are a bunch of other sports that keep kids and parents busy as well. Here are a few of the more unique outdoor high school sports you might not have known were in existence and their number of participants nationwide:

Air Riflery – 1,025

Badminton – 16,877

Flag Football – 9,897

Kayaking – 181

Mountain Biking – 626

Rodeo – 274 (this seems low)

Surfing – 1,535

In a way you could call the Fall High School Season the Bleacher Sports season since most of the time these games are watched outdoors from aluminum bleachers, whether they are 15-row bleachers or 3-row bleachers.

This season, those fans certainly witnessed their share of touchdowns, goals and crossed finish lines. Moments offset by dropped passes, fumbles and sprained ankles. No matter where you sit, it’s always an emotional roller coaster of up and downs, victories and losses, shutouts and upsets.

People in those stadium bleachers get to see incredible individual performances from individuals that you know you will be seeing again in college stadiums or ballfields. And those fans also get to see how solid teamwork can turn an underdog into a state champion, even if they don’t have any individual all-stars on a team.

Not only is there drama taking place on the field in front of the aluminum bleachers, there’s also the unpredictable spectacle of the weather overhead. Blazing sun in September, freezing cold in December and a large number of perfectly cool days in between.

Yes, fall is a special season for high school sports and their fans. For the students who play and the mass of parents, family, friends and students who cheer them on.

Overall student participation in athletics in American high schools has skyrocketed over the years. Look at this chart:

number of high school athletest

Growth in number of high school athletes


This past year, that number was 7.8 million. Again, most of that participation takes place from September to December.

As you can see, while the national attention in the fall appears to be focused on NFL games watched from couches in living rooms across America, most of the fan activity is actually taking place in those aluminum bleachers in home towns near Main Street USA.




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