MHSAA survey shows more than 44 percent of athletes play multiple sports

More than 44 percent of Michigan High School Athletic Association high school athletes participated in more than one sport during the 2021-22 school year, according to the Multi-Sport Participation Survey conducted this spring, the fourth such survey conducted by the MHSAA conducted over the past five years to monitor the specialization rate in school physical education.

Early and intense sport specialization has become one of the most serious health and safety issues at all levels of youth sport, as overuse injuries and burnout in athletes are linked to chronic injuries and health problems later in life. In early 2016, the MHSAA appointed a Task Force on Multisport Participation as part of ongoing efforts to promote and protect participant health and address the issues that lead to early sport specialization. The annual Multi-Sport Participation Survey, conducted for the first time for the 2017-18 school year, was one of the outcomes of the task force’s work. (No survey was conducted for 2019-20 due to the cancellation of spring sports due to COVID-19.)

The MHSAA 2021-22 Multi-Sport Participation Survey received responses from 85 percent of member universities, the highest response rate in the four years the survey was conducted. The survey results showed a slightly lower percentage of high school students involved in athletics compared to the first survey in 2017-18 – but a higher percentage of multi-athletes among those involved in at least one sport.

For 2021-22, schools that took part in the survey showed that 40.4 percent of their students participated in athletics in their senior year — 43.5 percent of boys and 37 percent of girls. Class D schools had the highest percentage of athletes among the entire student body at 51.8 percent, followed by Class C (47.8), Class B (41.3), and Class A (37.7).

Those percentages — overall and by grade — were all slightly lower than the results from the 2017-18 survey, which found 42.5 percent of students overall participated in athletics. However, the percentage of athletes who competed in multiple sports in 2021-22 was higher than in 2017-18, 44.3 percent to 42.8 percent.

For 2021-22, 46.5 percent of male athletes and 41.4 percent of female athletes have played multiple sports. Class D again had the highest proportion of multi-athletes in this group at 60.8 percent, followed by Class C (58.5), Class B (49.5), and Class A (36.7).

Similar results for overall sports participation and participation in multiple sports relative to enrollment size were obtained when further breakdown Class A in schools with fewer than 1,000 students, 1,000-1,500 students, 1,501-2,000 students, and more than 2,000 students. For both overall sport participation and multisport participation specifically, the smallest Class A schools had the highest percentages, while percentages then decreased for each larger school group. This has remained constant over the past five years.

“The Multisport Participation Survey shows again that athletes across the state remain focused on multisport participation and the benefits that participation brings to their school teams. What the numbers don’t show are the behind-the-scenes benefits of participating in multiple sports,” said MHSAA associate director Cody Inglis, who served as coordinator of the multisport task force. “So many student-athletes see great achievements on and off the field with their teams, teammates, friends and colleagues while also developing the lifelong lessons that right sport offers. We continue to believe and know that student-athletes who are involved in multiple sports are more successful, benefit from sport diversity and see tremendous long-term benefits.”

The MHSAA Task Force on Multi-Sport Participation also recommended measuring multi-sport participation in MHSAA member schools to identify “high performers” — that is, schools that, given their enrollment and other factors affecting school sports participation, are the norm surpass

In Class A, Bay City Central (78.7) and Livonia Franklin (77.7) recorded the highest percentages of multisport athletes in 2021-22, while Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (75.6) and Parma Western (75.4) also did reached 75 percent. In Grade 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 more than 80 percent of athletes participating in 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 reported multisport participation of more than 90 percent, with Coldwater Pansophia Academy and Kinross Maplewood Baptist both reporting that 100 percent of their athletes played multiple sports. McBain Northern Michigan Christian (98.6), Ewen-Trout Creek (94.3) and Detroit Douglass (91.7) were second highest on the Class D list.

A total of 10 schools have appeared in the top 10 percent in their respective grades for participation in multiple sports 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 multi-sport participation survey summary report is available at Multi-Sport Benefits Page of the MHSAA website.

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