The Rise of Individual Prep Sports

When we traditionally think of sports at the high school level, the big three come to mind. Prep Football, Basketball, and Baseball. There’s some serious tradition imparted on these sports which go back decades if not generations. That’s probably part of drives the continued popularity of these sports…Dad’s taking sons to pee wee football, bball, and baseball. That’s only half the story. Although the big three are pretty comfortable in their current positions across U.S. high school athletic departments, a big wave of change has slowly rolled on during the past decade or two. The rise of individual or independent sports. Let’s take a look at what’s coming in the high school sport arena.

In a nutshell, there’s some new kids on the block. The trend has been a decreasing participation rate (per capita) for traditional team sports such as the big three and an increase in interest, time, and participation in what’s loosely called individual sports. This is actually a wide net of different activities but let’s talk about a few and how it’s changing the prep sport world. Now for the purist in high school sports which is probably driven by a person’s age and what they’re familiar with, these may not feel like sports in the traditional sense but try telling that to someone whose world revolves around competition in one of these different sports. You’re going to get bad looks pretty quickly and with good reason. A sport is a sport. If you can complete against others and there’s a level of skill and/or ability needed in order to succeed, then that by definition is a sport. We’re not talking competitive eating here although, you could probably argue for that as well. I personally can’t eat 42 hot dogs without turning white and going into shock. So what activies are we talking about?

Some are a little more obvious and some we’ve been doing since we’re little kids for fun. An example of the obvious would be something like tennis or wrestling. They’ve been around for ever and have actually crossed over into the “mainstream” prep sport segment. Most high schools in the U.S. have a tennis and wrestling team. Also in this “almost there” category would be swimming and golf. Both are pretty prevalent at the high school level. You then start to get into different activities that most schools don’t have competitive teams for. An example would be snowboarding, boxing (probably for obvious liability reasons), or various martial arts which is everything from karate to jujitsu. Obviously, these can be incredibly competitive and it’s very easy to see how they are individual sports at the prep level but you just don’t find a wide availability at an organized level across high schools. There may be clubs for these activities but not school sponsored teams.

Even beyond these individual sports which are halfway there, you have different activities such as ping pong, discus golf, roller derby, and fencing. All have competitive elements in them and all are gaining popularity with today’s youth. So even though we traditionally think of prep sports as football, basketball, and baseball…let’s keep in mind that interest in other individual sports in constantly increasing in popularity at the high school level.

Dennis Jarvis writes about the world of Prep Sports including high school sports such as high school football, basketball, and baseball.

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