MHSAA survey shows over 44% of athletes play multiple sports

More than 44% of high school athletes who are members of the Michigan High School Athletic Association participated in more than one sport during the 2021-22 school year, according to the Multisport Participation Survey conducted this spring, the fourth survey of this type conducted by the MHSAA over the past five years to monitor the rate of specialization in school sport.

Early and intense sports specialization has become one of the most serious health and safety issues in all levels of youth sports, as overuse injuries and burnout among athletes have been linked to chronic injuries and health problems later in life. In early 2016, MHSAA appointed a Multi-Sport Participation Task Force as part of an ongoing effort to promote and protect the health of participants and address issues leading to early sport specialization. The annual multisport participation survey, conducted for the first time for the 2017-2018 school year, was part of the results of the working group’s work. (No surveys were conducted for 2019-20 as spring sports were canceled due to COVID-19.)

The 2021-2022 MHSAA Multisport Participation Survey received responses from 85% of member high schools, the highest response rate in the four years the survey was conducted. Survey results showed a slightly lower percentage of member high school students participating in athletics compared to the inaugural 2017-18 survey – but a higher percentage of multi-sport athletes among those who practice at least a sport.

For 2021-2022, schools responding to the survey showed that 40.4% of their students participated in athletics in the last school year – 43.5% boys and 37% girls. Class D schools recorded the highest percentage of athletes among all students at 51.8%, followed by Class C (47.8), Class B (41.3) and class A (37.7).

These percentages – total and by class – were all slightly lower than those produced by the 2017-2018 survey, which saw 42.5% of total students participate in athletics. However, the percentage of athletes participating in multiple sports in 2021-22 was higher than in 2017-2018, from 44.3% to 42.8%.

For 2021-22, 46.5% of male athletes and 41.4% of female athletes participated in multiple sports. Class D again recorded the highest percentage of multi-sport athletes among this group, at 60.8%, followed by Class C (58.5), Class B (49.5) and Class A (36.7).

Similar results for overall sport participation and multi-sport participation relative to enrollment were seen by further dividing Class A into schools with less than 1,000 students, 1,000–1,500 students, 1,501–2,000 students and more than 2,000 students. For sports participation as a whole and multi-sport participation specifically, the smallest Class A schools recorded the highest percentages, while the percentages then declined for each group of larger schools. This has remained constant over the past five years.

“The multi-sport participation survey again shows that student-athletes across the state continue to focus on participating in multiple sports and the benefits that this brings to their school teams. What the numbers don’t show are the hidden benefits of multi-sport participation,” said MHSAA Deputy Director Cody Inglis, who served as coordinator of the multi-sport task force. “So many student-athletes find great success on and off the field with their teams, teammates, friends and peers while developing the lifelong lessons that sport done well provides. We continue to believe and know that student-athletes who play multiple sports perform better, enjoy the variety of sports, and see tremendous long-term benefits.

The MHSAA Task Force on Multisport Participation has also recommended measuring multisport participation at MHSAA member schools to recognize “high achievers”, i.e. schools that exceed the norm given their enrollment and other factors that affect participation in school sports.

In Class A, Bay City Central (78.7) and Livonia Franklin (77.7) had the highest percentages of multi-sport athletes in 2021-22, along with Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (75.6) and Parma Western (75.4) also reaching 75%. In Class B, four schools achieved at least 80 percent multisport participation — Brooklyn Columbia Central (85.8), Detroit Southeastern (84.6), Warren Michigan Collegiate (84), and Durand (82.6).

Class C saw five schools with over 80% of its athletes playing more than one sport: Brown City (95.7), Decatur (87.4), Niles Brandywine (85.6), Ishpeming Westwood (83, 2) and Flint Beecher (80.4). Five Class D schools responded with multi-sport participation above 90%, with Coldwater Pansophia Academy and Kinross Maplewood Baptist both reporting that 100% of their athletes participated in multiple sports. McBain Northern Michigan Christian (98.6), Ewen-Trout Creek (94.3) and Detroit Douglass (91.7) were next in importance on the Class D list.

A total of 10 schools are in the top 10% of their respective classes for multi-sport participation in three of the four years of the survey: Battle Creek Harper Creek, Detroit Cody, Gibraltar Carlson, Grand Rapids Northview, Hamtramck, New Baltimore Anchor Bay, Ovid-Elise, Warren Lincoln, Athens and Maplewood Baptist.

The full summary report of the Multisport Participation Survey is available at Multisport Benefits MHSAA website page.

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