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updated: 8/25/2014 2:32 PM

Radtke: High school sports do matter

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A Facebook post I saw a couple of weeks ago made me laugh. The author questioned why so many people "go gaga" over high school sports.

"Kids should be focusing on getting good grades and becoming productive members of society who can help stop all the violence and madness in the world. How does playing sports do that?" the post said.

Did you just chuckle a little? I sure did when I saw it. It also made me a little sad that the author was so shortsighted to not even think about how intertwining academics and athletics is at the core of what we hope and trust all of our high schools are doing.

And whether or not you relate popularity/participation to importance is a personal choice and opinion but the report released Friday by the National Federation of High School Associations sure does prove the popularity of high school sports (see the PDF of the report linked to this article on

For the 25th consecutive year, the NFHS reports, participation in high school sports across the country increased. There are now nearly 7.8 million high schoolers participating in at least one sport. Girls' participation increased for the 25th straight year, with 3.2 million females playing high school sports. Boys eclipsed 4.5 million for the first time. Football increased for the first time in five years. Just over a million athletes play high school football, including 1,715 girls.

The first year of the survey, 1971-72, there were 3.9 million total participants. How times change -- and in this case, for the better.

Volleyball saw the biggest increase in girls sports but track and field remained the No. 1 sport for girls with just short of 479,000 participants. Basketball (433, 344) is No. 2 and volleyball (429,634) No. 3, followed by soccer (374,564) and softball (364,297).

Track and field (580,321), basketball (541,054), baseball (482,629) and soccer (417,419) come in behind football for boys' sports.

Texas is still the No. 1 state for high school sports participation with 805,299 athletes. California, New York, Illinois and Ohio round out the top 5.

"This past year's report on sports participation in our nation's high schools was another great statement about the importance of these education-based programs," said NFHS executive director Bob Gardner in a release.

Not a lot more needs to be said on that now, does it?

Buh-bye summer: While the weather may be more summerlike now than it's been for the whole season, we in the high school sports world have kissed goodbye the days of recharging our batteries (and tubing the Sugar River) to prepare for yet another fall sports season. This fall marks 40 years since I first sat at a typewriter (how many kids today even know what a typewriter is???) and wrote my first published article. High school sports makes me feel younger every year and I look forward to another great year of bringing you the best coverage we can on our area schools.

Before we begin that, though, we have to catch up a little with some summer happenings.

•The North Suburban Conference is breaking up and taking the Grayslake schools with it, which means the Fox Valley Conference will be left with nine schools after the dust settles on the 2014-15 school year. It will be interesting to see how things shake out with the FVC. Will it stick with nine, or try to expand to 12, or hope one more leaves so it has eight?

•New football coaches in the area include Dragan Teonic at Larkin, Mike Steinhaus at Dundee-Crown and Mike Brasile at Hampshire. Each of them will have a challenge to bring a new system into their respective schools. Teonic's greatest challenge is to build a winner at Larkin and increase participation numbers, Steinhaus hopes to keep his alma mater in the hunt for a playoff berth, and Brasile will bring a new offensive look to a program that has had the same coach for 25 years.

You can read all about the area's football prospects now on and this coming Friday in our annual football preview edition.

•There are new athletic directors in the area as well, but not guys we don't know. Steve Gertz, the former AD at Streamwood and Burlington Central, is back in the area and has taken over for the retired Dick Storm at Dundee-Crown, while Jeremy Bauer has traded in the coach's shoes for the AD's desk at Jacobs. Chris Rozanski, for the past 14 years a teacher and coach at Rockford Boylan, is the new AD at Huntley. He replaces Michelle Jakubowski, who is now teaching and the head girls volleyball coach at Barrington.

• A piece of significant news from the IHSA office this summer was the decision to delay the implementation of the Policy 17 changes, including the multiplier waiver and success factor, until 2015-16. The IHSA board made the decision to delay the changes until more education and feedback on the issue is received.

"The changes to Policy 17 are significant, so it is important that the membership has a strong grasp on their history and implementation," said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman after the board's June meeting. "The 'success factor' will affect about three percent of the membership, but the waiver changes will have a considerably larger impact. It will be a positive step to gain feedback from the membership, as well as to make sure we have a full understanding on how these changes influence other factors, such as classification cutoffs."

•Also from the IHSA this summer: The board approved a recommendation to form a subcommittee consisting of members of the Athletic Administrators Advisory Committee to review IHSA Policy 18: Grouping and Seeding State Tournament Series. The committee will be charged with reviewing the use of sub-sectional formats statewide in team bracketed sports and the football playoff system.

Are changes coming? This space sure hopes so ...

On to fall sports. Are you ready? We are. Join us for yet another thrilling high school sports year -- and yes, high school sports DO matter.

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