Isn’t this what intramural sports are for?
Good point. As a modestly talented, two-sport letter winner in high school, I found out I was destined for about zero playing time in college athletics. But my school had a great intramural program: touch football, basketball, cross country running, bowling, and a host of other sports.
Today's kids, for whatever reasons, don't find high school or college intramurals as appealing as my generation did.
[excerpt from previous story in the series, linked in an earlier post}
SITTING IT OUT
The Minnesota Department of Education annually checks sports participation at the state's schools to see if schools are meeting the goals of Title IX, the 1972 federal law calling for gender equity.
Computerized records begin with the 1980-81 school year. Since then, sports participation peaked in 1981-82 at 45 percent for boys and girls combined. Participants in boys' sports equaled 54 percent of all boys, and the girls' participation rate was 36 percent.
When officials issued the 2007-08 totals last month, the numbers showed a few gains since 1980-81. About three times as many girls were playing interscholastic soccer, and girls hockey had surged from virtually nothing to about 2,800.
But the gains were swallowed by a wave of declines in other sports.
The participation rate for interscholastic girls basketball is down 55 percent. Girls volleyball dropped by half.
Boys wrestling is down by 58 percent. Basketball, cut in half. Football, down 46 percent. Hockey, 31 percent.
Track and field dropped about 40 percent for boys and girls. Some sports, such as boys gymnastics, have died.
Intramural sports took the biggest hit of all.
In the 1980s, about 74,000 children picked from a smorgasbord of 70 intramural sports. The range was impressive everything from co-ed wrestling to roller-skating.
"It used to be you could play sports by just showing up," Coonce said.
By 2007-08, intramural programs had evaporated with only eight sports and 5 percent participation.