Michigan athlete count down a bit

LANSING – Prep sports participation in Michigan declined slightly in the 2013-14 school year, though the numbers are not far out of line with overall declining enrollment trends throughout the state.

A total of 288,230 participants took part in the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s 28 tournament sports, according to a report the organization released Wednesday. That figure is 1.9 percent less than 2012-13, however enrollments at the MHSAA’s member schools were off 0.7 percent over the same period. Since 2006-07, enrollments are down 10 percent, but MHSAA participation figures are only off 7.9 percent.

Student-athletes are counted for each unique sport in which they participate.

Four sports set new participation records. The only ones of those in which U.P. athletes compete are boys’ and girls’ cross country. A total of 17,585 athletes ran cross country, an increase for the fifth consecutive year. Girls participation was up 3.9 percent over the year before. The other MHSAA sport to set a record was lacrosse, which is played nearly exclusively in the southern half of Lower Michigan.

Other less-heralded girls sports showed an increase, including swimming and diving, golf, soccer and track.

However, the two most prominent girls sports continued significant downward trends: Girls’ basketball was down to 16,329 participants, the lowest total since records were first kept in 1991-92 and 14.7 percent less than the last season before the sport was switched to winter play beginning in 2007-08.

Volleyball is down 6.5 percent to 18,607, its fewest since 1993-94 and a 13.6 percent decline since its final season in the winter.

On the boys’ side, baseball increased slightly, one of three boys sports to do so, but football participation was down for the sixth straight season, by a comparatively small 2 percent.