The gap between High School athletic participation vs. College participation.

For a lot of people, their athletics and sports have been a huge part of their life. From the minute, they can remember walking they remember kicking a soccer ball, catching a ball, and spending hours outside on a field. From an early age, kids get hooked on sports. Sometimes it’s just one sport and sometimes its multiple sports. Kids spend hours and hours practicing and playing games working their way to high school with the dreams to play on the varsity team. Varsity athletics in high school is a common goal for all athletes around, varsity means that you are working with the head coaches and you get to work for the league, state, and county championships. Winning championships and awards is what drives athletes to work hard. However, just how many of these athletes who spend so much of their childhood and high school playing sports at the next level? College varsity athletics is what comes next for the truly serious athletes. As a college athlete, I was curious to learn more about how many high school athletes turn into college athletes and why some athletes choose to continue and why some choose to say goodbye.1

Before I dug into why I wanted to learn about the statistics revolving around high school sports participation and college sports participation. In an article called Odds of a High School Athlete playing in College by ( they break down how many students are playing sports in high school and then in college per gender. This research was conducted in 2016-2017 by comparing the number of varsity athletes at US high schools and the number of college student-athletes. The numbers go from millions of high school athletes to thousands of students playing in college. This is a huge gap between high school and college. As a college athlete, I was shocked to see these numbers be so drastic. For me, I have been surrounded by a lot of athletes at the college level so for me I always picture a bigger population moving on to college.

I decided to call up my cousin Matthew Bellinger who has played sports all his life but decided to not play in high school his thoughts on these findings. Matthew was not shocked like I was. He stated that “a lot of kids play sports in high school to spend time with friends and to better themselves to get into college.” This is a strong point made on explaining these statistics and why there is such a large gap between high school and college athletic participation.

After seeing this large gap, I was curious about the breakdown of high school to college participation as per the most popular sports for both males and females.


The NCAA also released an article called the Estimated probability of competing in college athletics found on their website ( they breakdown the percentages by sport and gender of high school athletes turning into college athletes. For male athletes, the statistics reported are all under 10% per each popular sport. To me, I always pictured a lot of football and baseball players moving on to play as not only do these teams carry large roster sizes but these are the most famous well enjoyed sports in America. However, statistically only 7.3% of high school football players play in college, and 7.5% play baseball. Overall, as per the first report, there are still more men then go on to play in college athletics then females.3

In the same report released by NCAA on their website they breakdown, the stats of female athletes as per the main female played sports. Similar to the men sports no sports reports over 8% of high school athletes playing in college. However, the stats reported by the NCAA for males playing at the college level are way higher than they are for female sports.

For me as a female athlete and knowing that title XI is working so hard to create equal opportunities and the fact that in another article by NCAA called Number of NCAA college athletes reaches an all-time high it states that “Women’s teams have outnumbered men’s teams since 1996-97…Today, 10,586 women’s teams compete in NCAA championship sports, compared with 9,159 men’s teams.” This finding was very confusing to me as the stat breakdown of athletes playing has more men than females.

I decided to call up my lacrosse coach and ask her about why this may be the case. Shannon Hertz of the Bloomsburg Lacrosse team told me that there is a bunch of reasons behind why there are more female teams but still more male athletes moving on to the college level but there is one main reason. She stated that “A lot of the male sports teams like football and baseball require and tend to carry large roster sizes and due to Title XI rules colleges are required to hold more female teams to offset the large male roster sizes.”

To wrap up my findings on how many high school athletes move on to college athletics I researched a few reasons why some athletes decide to stop playing. In an article called 14 Surprising Facts About Being a College Athlete found on Best Colleges Online ( discusses some facts about playing college athletics. Some of these stats are true factors as to why not as many athletes move onto play in college. For instance, full-ride athletic scholarships technically don’t exist and the average amount of scholarship money is $8,700. It is also really hard to receive a scholarship making it financially challenging to go to college and play. Athletes also most likely unable to hold internships during the school year as they don’t have the time or schedule to hold one and according to the website, graduation rates are lower than one would think. It even states that “ In 2010, the average graduation rate for March Madness teams was 43%, with six teams under 20% and two under 10%.” Overall, there are a lot higher school athletes that decide to not play in college than those that do but that is due to factors dealing with money and ultimate career goals that can be harder to achieve as an athlete.

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