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A look at Forsyth County high school athletic participation in 2014-15
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Every spring, high school athletic departments are required to provide the Georgia High School Association with the number of students who participated in a sanctioned sport that school year. The GHSA has collected participation data since the 1987-88 school year, and it in turn submits the data to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the governing body under which most high school athletic programs participate.

The data is useful for all kinds of things. It helps the GHSA with forecasting possibly scenarios for realignment, the process by which schools are divided into regions within six classifications. It’s also required under Title IX, the federal law passed in 1972 prohibiting sex discrimination in education, including high school and college athletics.

The data also gives local high school athletic directors the opportunity to gauge the health and progress of its overall athletic department and the sports within it.

“You can kind of see where your programs are going,” North Forsyth athletic director Nathan Turner said. “You can evaluate it and see what programs are growing and what programs aren’t growing. You can use that as a reflection tool of why is this program not sustaining and achieving? Or why is this program’s numbers up? What are they doing?”

Here are a few interesting things from this past school year’s data:

Lacrosse booming

Lacrosse first became a GHSA-sanctioned sport in the 2000-01 school year. This past season, 6,830 players and 186 teams competed, according to the GHSA survey. That makes it the 12th-largest sport in the state out of 17 state-sanctioned sports.

But in Forsyth County, lacrosse is tied for the second-largest sport with track and field. That’s right, the sport has leap-frogged traditionally popular sports like soccer, basketball and baseball. Case in point: Lambert had more players in its boys lacrosse program (82) than Forsyth Central did in football (80).

The sport’s popularity in Forsyth County is, of course, a force of geography. The transplant-nature of metro Atlanta has brought lacrosse mercenaries from all over, particularly the north, and the county seems to be converting.

Track and field still strong

Speaking of track and field; it’s tied for the second-largest sport in Forsyth County high schools with 504 athletes, which is consistent with the state of the sport in Georgia as a whole. Track and field is the second-largest sport in the state, behind only football, with 23,995 athletes this past season.

Perhaps that’s notable only because the sport rarely registers with popular consciousness in the same way that mainstream sports like baseball, basketball, football and others do. It’s not regularly featured on television, and only figures prominently every four years for the Olympics.

And yet, on the high school level, it’s participation is as healthy as ever.

Math doesn’t add up for Pinecrest

This past season, Pinecrest Academy had 321 high school athletes. Which is fine, except the Paladins only had 294 high school students.

How is that possible? Easy: the GHSA counts athletes who participate in multiple sports once for each sport they participate in. Clearly, Pinecrest has LOTS of multi-sport athletes.

That’s to be expected for a Class A program. When ranked alongside Forsyth County’s public high schools, Pinecrest ranks last in participation for almost every sport. Class A athletic programs survive off the multi-sport athlete.

But there is one notable exception for the Paladins: boy soccer, where Pinecrest has as many players (37) as Lambert and North Forsyth and more than Forsyth Central (36) and South Forsyth (32). Maybe it’s no surprise the Paladins reached the Class A private school quarterfinals this past season.

Gender equity

“A goal of ours would be to get gender equity as equal as possible,” Forsyth Central athletic director Dan Kaplan said.

Indeed, much of the motivation behind athletic participation surveys is to monitor the progress of gender equity in high school sports in schools, counties and the state.

Georgia has a checkered history on that issue. In 2010, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) filed a complaint against Henry County just south of Atlanta and 11 other school districts across the country for failing to provide high school girls with equal opportunities to play sports. Henry County Schools eventually made efforts to add high school girls teams in lacrosse and gymnastics.

This past June, the NWLC ranked Georgia dead last for gender equity in high school sports for the percentage of high schools with gender equity gaps greater than 10 percent.

“While there is no set gap that constitutes a violation of Title IX,” the NWLC report states, “… gaps of 10 percent or more indicate that schools are likely not complying with the law.”

By that definition, Forsyth County is in OK shape. Its gender equity gap this past season was 9 percent. West Forsyth (6 percent), Lambert (6.7 percent) and Forsyth Central (7.2 percent) in particular had strong numbers, especially when compared to Georgia as a whole; the state’s overall gender equity gap was 11.7 percent in 2014-15.

But a few Forsyth County schools fall short on gender equity: Pinecrest Academy (10.3 percent), South Forsyth (13.8 percent) and North Forsyth (14.9 percent).

Gender equity is calculated by taking the percentage of high school students who are girls and subtracting the percentage of high school athletes who are girls.

Number of high school athletes

Lambert               988

West Forsyth     956

North                    856

South                    853

Central                 633

Pinecrest             321

Number of high school boy athletes

North                    574

Lambert               558

West                     542

South                    541

Central                 398

Pinecrest             185

Number of high school girl athletes

Lambert               430

West                     414

South                    312

North                    282

Central                 235

Pinecrest             136

Baseball

1. West Forsyth     63

2. North Forsyth     60

3. Forsyth Central     58

4. South Forsyth     57

5. Lambert     55

6. Pinecrest     18

Boys basketball

1. West Forsyth     39

2. Lambert    38

3. South Forsyth    38

4. North Forsyth    37

5. Forsyth Central    35

6. Pinecrest    22

Girls basketball

1. North Forsyth    34

2. Lambert    30

3. West Forsyth    29

4. South Forsyth    27

5. Forsyth Central    16

6. Pinecrest    12

Competition cheer

1. Lambert    40

2. West Forsyth    35

3. North Forsyth    34

4. South Forsyth    32

5. Pinecrest    28

6. Forsyth Central    20

Boys cross country

1. North Forsyth    42

2. South Forsyth    40

3. West Forsyth    37

4. Forsyth Central    31

5. Lambert    30

6. Pinecrest    14

Girls cross country

1. Lambert    48

2. South Forsyth    42

3. West Forsyth    28

4. North Forsyth    25

5. Forsyth Central    20

6. Pinecrest     9

Football

1. Lambert    158

2. West Forsyth    140

3. South Forsyth    133

4. North Forsyth    112

5. Forsyth Central    80

6. Pinecrest     36

Boys golf

1. West Forsyth    20

2. South Forsyth    17

T3. Forsyth Central    13

T3. North Forsyth    13

5. Lambert    12

6. Pinecrest    7

Girls golf

1. Lambert    12

2. West Forsyth    11

T3. North Forsyth    7

T3. South Forsyth    7

5. Forsyth Central    4

6. Pinecrest    0

Gymnastics

1. Forsyth Central    14

2. South Forsyth    11

3. West Forsyth    11

4. Lambert    10

5. North Forsyth    0

6. Pinecrest     0

Boys lacrosse

1. Lambert    82

2. South Forsyth    64

3. West Forsyth    61

4. North Forsyth    34

5. Forsyth Central    30

6. Pinecrest    23

Girls lacrosse

1. Lambert    60

2. West Forsyth    48

3. South Forsyth    32

4. North Forsyth    29

5. Pinecrest    22

6. Forsyth Central    19

Boys soccer

1. West Forsyth     48

T2. Lambert    37

T2. North Forsyth    37

T2. Pinecrest    37

5. Forsyth Central    36

6. South Forsyth    32

Girls soccer

1. West Forsyth    36

T2. Lambert    34

T2. North Forsyth    34

4. Forsyth Central    33

5. South Forsyth    31

6. Pinecrest    26

Softball

1. West Forsyth    32

2. Forsyth Central    29

3. North Forsyth    26

T4. Lambert    23

T4. South Forsyth    23

6. Pinecrest    13

Boys swim/dive

1. Lambert    46

2. South Forsyth    29

3. North Forsyth    24

4. West Forsyth    21

5. Forsyth Central    15

6. Pinecrest    12

Girls swim/dive

1. Lambert    58

2. West Forsyth    35

3. Forsyth Central    30

4. South Forsyth    27

5. North Forsyth    25

6. Pinecrest    21

Boys riflery

1. North Forsyth    6

2. Forsyth Central    0

3. Lambert    0

4. Pinecrest    0

5. South Forsyth    0

6. West Forsyth    0

Girls riflery

1. North Forsyth    5

2. Forsyth Central    0

3. Lambert    0

4. Pinecrest    0

5. South Forsyth    0

6. West Forsyth    0

Boys tennis

1. South Forsyth    25

2. Lambert    24

3. North Forsyth    13

4. Forsyth Central    12

5. West Forsyth    11

6. Pinecrest    8

Girls tennis

1. South Forsyth    28

2. Lambert    24

3. Forsyth Central    15

T4. North Forsyth    10

T4. West Forsyth    10

6. Pinecrest    9

Boys track and field

1. West Forsyth    71

2. South Forsyth    63

3. North Forsyth    62

4. Forsyth Central    58

5. Lambert    43

6. Pinecrest    0

Girls track and field

1. Lambert    55

2. West Forsyth    49

3. South Forsyth    46

4. Forsyth Central    29

5. North Forsyth    28

6. Pinecrest    0

Volleyball

T1. South Forsyth    38

T1. West Forsyth    38

3. Lambert    36

4. Forsyth Central    26

5. North Forsyth    25

6. Pinecrest    23

Weightlifting

1. North Forsyth    40

2. Forsyth Central    0

3. Lambert    0

4. Pinecrest    0

5. South Forsyth    0

6. West Forsyth    0

Wrestling

1. North Forsyth    54

2. South Forsyth    43

3. Lambert    33

4. West Forsyth    31

5. Forsyth Central    30

6. Pinecrest    0

* North Forsyth participation numbers are from 2013-14 school year