High School Sports: An Introduction

High school athletics have been responsible for launching the early careers of most major NFL and NBA athletes. But they also help you build a more well-rounded high school career (read: one that could be more attractive for college admissions personnel), as well as build social and competitive skills, discipline and organizational skills. In some cases they are also the springboard to a competitive and valuable college scholarship.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), 3.1 million girls and 4.4 million boys actively participate in high school sports across the nation and data indicates those numbers continue to climb. This is good news for a nation in which statistics for childhood obesity continue to be alarming.

Most Popular High School Sports

The most popular high school sports regularly include: football, basketball, track and field, baseball, and soccer for boys; and basketball, track and field, volleyball, and soccer for girls. It’s likely the local news outlets—TV, newspaper and online sources—cover the most competitive area match-ups. But we’re also to a point in our technological history in which you can watch your favorite high school sports teams on YouTube, or “friend” and follow teams and players on Facebook and elsewhere.

Emerging High School Sports

“Emerging” sports are those that have not enjoyed widespread popularity. Sports like lacrosse and cheerleading, or “competitive spirit squads,” may be regional favorites, or interest may be trickling down from colleges or private high schools, where lacrosse, equestrian, tennis and field hockey have long histories.

Other emerging sports to keep your sights on include: rowing, rugby, and even competitive dance.

Participating in High School Athletics

If you’re interested in a high school sport chances are good that you’ll have to try out. The most popular sports have varsity and junior varsity teams and many students show up for try-outs. But space is limited. Besides varsity and junior varsity, though, you may also have the option to participate in intramural or club sports. You get the rush without the pressure. And then again, less popular and emerging sports teams may welcome all who’d like to participate.

Getting a College Athletic Scholarship

Can you use your high school sports career to land a college scholarship? The college athletic scholarship arena is quite competitive, but with adequate advance planning and the right motivation and skills, scholarships for college sports are possible.

NCAA division I and II colleges and universities hand out many thousands of full and partial sports scholarships every year to high school athletes. In the most popular sports, these are ultra competitive. However, less competitive are athletic scholarships in less popular sports, such as swimming and diving and volleyball, among many others.

Keep in mind that if you’re a high school athlete and really want to use scholarship money to help pay for college that many community colleges and junior colleges also offer some athletic scholarships. Guess what? Many of these types of colleges “field” exceptionally competitive teams, so don’t rule them out.

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