For the sixth consecutive season, 11-man participation levels for high school football in California have declined, according to the annual CIF participation survey.
There was no survey done in 2020-21 because of the pandemic. For 2021-22, 84,626 played football, down from 89,756 in 2019-20 and down from 91,305 in 2018-19. There has been a decline every season since 2015. The pandemic also caused the loss of players through the absence of lower-level programs.
Even though participation numbers for football have been falling, there are signs of a potential reversal. Simi Valley coach Jim Benkert said he has 60 freshmen out for football, up from 30 last season. Loyola has more than 100 freshmen out for football. Oaks Christian has 47 players out for freshman-sophomore football, up from 28 last season.
“It’s turned,” Benkert said of participation levels.
Oaks Christian coach Charlie Collins said he believes the decline can be traced to the growth of soccer and how football programs are run with a decline in quality coaches. Benkert said the growth of lacrosse also has been having an impact.
Participation overall in the CIF is at 763,606 students, down 7.6% since the 2019-20 survey.
“While football numbers declined this year, as well as most other sports, we are hearing anecdotal information from member schools that participation numbers look good this fall,” said Ron Nocetti, executive director of the CIF. “We look forward to seeing if the 2022-2023 census confirms this.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.