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Interest in high school sports

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Mr. X, Oct 20, 2008.

  1. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    How much interest is there in high school sports in your coverage area and how does it compare to the past?

    The weekly I write for covers the one (public) high school, enrollment approximately 2,500. The paper is delivered free to approximately 17,000 households in a city whose population is approximately 35,000.

    My gut feeling is that there is interest in three households per varsity team, with the exception of track, which has a very large roster.

    The way I came up with the three households figure is the parents of the athlete, a friend or relative of the athlete and one random household. (Many of the athletes do not live in the city.)

    The interest in high school sports in the community appears to have generally declined in recent years. Student attendance at events appears to have declined, probably because of the growing amount of entertainment options, including more movie theater screens.

    I also think the increased number of professional and college sporting events on television -- compared to some years ago -- also decreases attendance.

    Parents are more interested in high school sports than years ago because of the quest for a college athletic scholarship.

    I am especially interested in the amount of interest in high school football in Texas and high school basketball in Indiana because they are such a part of popular culture -- "Friday Night Lights" and "Hoosiers." Because those areas are less isolated than the past -- the same cable television programming is received there as the rest of the nation -- and increased mobility, there is less interest than in the past.

    I hope this is "journalism enough" for this board. To me, it goes to the amount of coverage given high school sports and if it really is what readers want.
  2. ScribePharisee

    ScribePharisee New Member

    If it's declining then why are there an increase in national coverage of high school sports? Of radio networks per team?

    I hope your question is legit but I'm wondering if you're a publisher of a Podunk Times who really is looking for areason to tell your staff "We need more citizen journalism, more pee wee football, more celebrations of local birthdays."

    If you can't cover the major teams like the major papers, and one is in your area competing with you, you'll still lose, regardless of what cuts they're making.
  3. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    I'm now thinking I should have asked, "How much interest is there in individual high schools in your coverage area?"

    I will agree there has been an increase of coverage in high school sports by several cable networks.

    I am the paper's sports editor, who has successfully resisted pressure to shift our coverage from varsity high school only -- with the occasional note on an alumnus in college or professional sports -- to add lower-level high school sports and middle school sports.

    We have more coverage of this high school's teams than anyone else, and we are in a very competitive market, facing a more-established a larger weekly rival.
  4. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    I impart thee knowledge, young crossed one.

    Though I can't speak for Indiana (other than the one copy of the Saturday Indy Star I bought a dozen years ago that contained more prep hoops than I've ever seen before), I can tell you a little about football.

    On the contrary, high school football in Texas has never been more popular. I looked at a website that catalogues stadiums and there are 3.8 million seats at all the high school stadiums in the state combined, at an average of 3,820 per stadium ( http://www.texasbob.com/football/tbt_stadium_fcts.html ).

    Since half the teams are home and the other half away, and figuring on average the number is just about right because many stadiums are small and overflow regularly while others are overbuilt or house struggling teams, that means on any given regular-season weekend there are 1.9 million attendees at Texas high school football games.

    Whole communities identify with their football teams here. It doesn't matter whether most residents grew up in a town and played for the team or were cheerleaders in school, or moved from the Big Smoke out to Bugtussle to escape the big city. Newcomers adopt their new home team quickly.

    A lot of newspapers have been forced to cut back on high school coverage for economic reasons obviously, but a lot of that coverage has shifted to the Web. Many papers have specialized sites for prep sports. (Not mine, but we're working on that.)

    I have no idea what part of the country you live in, but cable TV and movie screens aren't affecting interest at all here. Good grief, the interest level you listed sounds like junior-high curling (sorry, Flash ;) ).
  5. CM Punk

    CM Punk Guest

    Not much. I live in a region with nearly 100,000 people and 30 high schools. Twenty-five of them are 3A or smaller. Attendance is not high to most events I cover. A soccer match might draw 30 people. Volleyball about 40. Football might draw 300-500, even for our largest school. We receive no e-mails from parents, no phone calls, nothing. I'm lucky to get one e-mail or call per two months. From conversations I've had, I know that many coaches don't even read the section. It seems to me that outside of player relatives, the general community doesn't give a shit what their high school teams are doing. We're not going to state tournaments this year because of budget cuts. I'd say interest is pretty low where I am.

    To make things even better, there are zero college programs or pro teams within 200 miles in any direction. I fear for my job. A lot. I have an escape plan.
  6. NoOneLikesUs

    NoOneLikesUs Active Member

    If team is winning interest is high. If team is losing, not so much. Nice warm nights bring out the people to football games by the thousands. If state ranked teams are going at in volleyball I see roughly 500 to 1,000 at a match in my area. Soccer has been increasing. Attendances are now in the hundreds. Cross country participation has plummeted and so has interest, possibly as a by-product of other sports rising up around it.

    The parents still call. The coaches still care what we print. The kids read it too. We're not hurting by any stretch.
  7. txsportsscribe

    txsportsscribe Active Member

    500 to 1,000 for volleyball? i'm guessing last hs vball team i covered didn't draw that many people for an entire season.
  8. NoOneLikesUs

    NoOneLikesUs Active Member

    For good matches. The mediocre and horrible matches get next to nothing.
  9. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Interest in high school basketball in Indiana is long gone from the "Hoosiers" days. It's still big in pockets of the state, but not the stuff of legend. Blame the dismantling of the one-class h.s. tournament into a four-class tourney, the relative mediocrity of the state's college teams from the Knight glory days at IU and just the same overall gravitation towards football as everywhere else in the land.
  10. prezclinton

    prezclinton Active Member

    I think you're missing a demographic. Alumni. I still read my hometown paper every Saturday to see how my high school did. And I know of a lot of people who do the same thing.
  11. crimsonace

    crimsonace Active Member

    Indiana used to be a high school basketball state. The bleeding-heart small-school nutjobs at the IHSAA killed that notion.

    However, Indiana is a high school sports state. Football games draw several thousand fans, depending on the community. In most towns, they're community events. Our webcasts -- for sub-.500 teams in smaller communities with little promotion -- drew 400-500 listeners a night.

    Basketball, depending on where you are, will draw a couple thousand on a Friday night. In a couple of pockets in the state (northern & southwest), it draws 4,000-6,000 fans anytime the gym doors are open. The girls programs usually draw decently, too, which splits the crowd.
  12. BrianGriffin

    BrianGriffin Active Member

    Depends on the school, of course. In my town, there is a suburb that has a long-standing football tradition and demographics that largely haven't changed in years. They have tremendous support. In the city, it's a little different. For example, one school was mostly white a generation ago, now it's mostly black. It's a bastard school in terms of interest because the white alums send their kids to another school and the black population that now sends its kids to this school largely still identifies with the historically black school across town. That school has been experiencing declining enrollment because the black community is shifting to the part of town where the formerly white school is "going black."

    Long story short, all sporting events for said school are friends and family gatherings.

    In between, it runs the gamut. The affluent city schools draw OK, but not great, because more people in the city are likely to go eat fine dining and catch a show on Friday than watch 16-year-olds knock each other down. But in the suburbs and small towns, attendance is better than ever.
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