Record Numbers for Prep Water Polo in CA as Football Declines


Interscholastic water polo continues to grow in California as participation in football maintains its negative trend according to the California Interscholastic Federation’s recently published 2018-19 participation census.

Nearly 34,000 athletes take part in high school varsity water polo in the state. That figure extends an unbroken streak of growth over the past decade, during which overall participation in the state has increased by an average of 1.7 percent annually.

The growth of girls’ water polo, averaging over two percent since 2011, continues to outpace that of the boys. The margin between the genders is the lowest ever with only 736 fewer girls than boys playing the sport. The narrowing of that gap has accelerated since 2015, when the number of girls playing the sport increased by over five percent.

The number of high school football players continues its downward trend, averaging a loss of 1.6 percent a year since 2011. The sport atrophied by nearly four percent in 2016 and has fallen in numbers by at least 2.8 percent since then.

Net participation in all girls’ sports increased from 349,386 in 2018 to 354,265 in 2019, while boys’ increased by fewer than 600 athletes (459,171 vs. 459,739). Soccer grew the most in the past year, gaining 3.3 percent for boys and 4.6 percent for girls. Swimming and diving experienced the largest declines among all sports, decreasing by 4.6 percent in boys and five percent in girls.

The data are submitted by high school athletic directors throughout the state in response to a survey published by the CIF, which publishes the resulting numbers in their raw form on the organization’s web site.