Home > The Scene

Cool graphic shows US high school athletics’ rise in popularity

Watch the history of high school track in the US as it vies for position against other sports

A US coaching site has created a cool animation showing high school athletics’ rise in popularity since the early 1970s. Track and field is now by far the most popular sport among US high school students, with a staggering 7.7 million participants, but it wasn’t always so.


(Track and field is the magenta bar that’s third from the top when the animation starts, in the early 1970s. Watch its popularity wax and wane from then til now.)

RELATED: Jamaican high schooler smashes U18 100m world record

Track’s rise in popularity hasn’t been smooth. It starts in third position (behind football and basketball) in the early 1970s, with three and a half million participants, experiencing steady growth and overtaking both in popularity in the mid 70s. By the late 70s it has grown to more than six million participants.

Then it experiences a rapid decline, dropping back down to third place, with brief surges, and stays there until well into the 90s. It finally moves into the top position in 2010, and remains on top while football’s popularity diminishes.

The sport’s major decline in the 1980s is a source of speculation, considering the running boom in the general population at the time.