Participation Problem: Despite decreases in high school sports participation seen in national trends, CHS athletics continue to show increases in participation


Veronica Teeter

HUDDLE UP: The women’s cross-country team meets before practice. Elle Nichol, varsity cross-country runner and senior, said she believes that the team spirit is the main reason behind the growth in participation for the team.

Aniket Biswal

Olivia McKee
Graham Seaver, men’s swimmer and sophomore, swims backstroke at the SSC Swim Fest meet on Oct. 6. Seaver said he has seen a rise in numbers for the swim team. He added that he believes the team’s successes at State and other meets have contributed to this growth.

Recently, a study conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) found there has been a significant drop in teenage sport participation from 2018 to 2019. In fact, there were about 43,000 fewer teens playing sports in 2019 than in 2018, 70% of which were from football. This is the first year in the last 30 years in which a drop in participation occurred on a national level. But experts say this drop might become the new norm as parents are becoming increasingly worried about the safety repercussions from high school sports.

However, in contrast to the national statistics, this school has shown a consistent pattern of increased participation in sports.

Athletics Director Jim Inskeep said, “At Carmel High School, our numbers continue to increase overall each year in participation. Right now we are at 1,500 student athletes in our program which includes all of fall, winter, and spring.”

Inskeep said he thinks the main reason behind this increase in numbers at CHS is the push by the student body and faculty to become more involved in activities.

Additionally, Inskeep said he believed the consistent participation in sports at CHS could also be attributed to the positive experiences these sports provided.

“I think the experience that students have is generally positive which means they continue on through high school. Although some students drop (athletics) after freshman year, most sophomores usually grind it out through senior year,” Inskeep said.

Graham Seaver, men’s swimmer and sophomore, has been swimming for both the Carmel swim club and swim team since sixth grade.

He said, “I have definitely seen an increase in numbers over the years. For example, the freshman boys team has 60 members this year but last year they had 40 members. There was a 20-person increase in one year alone and (it) has been growing ever since I joined.”

Seaver also said he thinks the growing success of the swim team for both men and women has been the driving factor for the increase in numbers over the years.

“The boys team has a streak of five State championships in a row and the girls have more than 30. These awards have shown that our school is successful and I think that is what is drawing more people in toward swimming,” Seaver said.

Elle Nichol, women’s varsity cross-country runner and senior, has been running cross-country since sixth grade and she said she has also seen a rise in students participating in the sport.

Elle Nichol, women’s varsity cross-country runner and senior, runs at practice. Nichol said that due to the rise in the number of athletes running cross-country, the team has started to make cuts. According to Nichol, cross-country was previously a no-cut sport.

She said, “There has definitely been increasing numbers in cross country, specifically because cross country is more of a team sport. We all run the same event and we all try to reach the same goal. With all the different activities we have for team bonding and getting to know the coaches better, I think we draw a lot of people who look for that team spirit.”

Nichol also said sports that typically did not cut athletes are now having cuts, including cross country, because there are too many students who want to participate in the activity.

Nichol said that change might make it more difficult to gauge future enrollment.

“It will be hard to gauge the numbers looking forward because cuts will be limiting the number of people involved in the sport,” she said.

Research from the NFHS showed students leave their sport usually due to either lack of interest or because of physical strain and safety issues. Inskeep said he thinks safety is not a huge issue at CHS since there have not been any major injuries over the years.

However, while there has been a rise in overall sports participation over the last 20 years at this school, Inskeep said there have been some instances in which he has seen students leave their sport.

“One thing we do see is that students lose interest in their sports over time. For example, students who become the top at their activity or those who get jobs during the year tend to lose interest in their sport and become more involved in their work and not show as much interest in playing as they had before,” Inskeep said. “Another big reason why students leave is the fact that they have a lot of experience growing up in elementary and middle school and when they reach high school, they don’t feel as motivated to play as they once had.”