High school is a formative time filled with new experiences, challenges, and opportunities. For many students, playing sports is one of the highlights of these years. Not only is participating in athletics enjoyable, but it also builds character, leadership skills, lasting friendships, and lifelong memories.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The top 5 sports to play in high school are football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, and track & field. Each offers unique benefits and fits different interests and abilities.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the pros and cons of the top 5 high school sports. We’ll look at the skills each builds, their popularity, time commitment, potential for injury, and more. By the end, you’ll have all the details you need to choose the best sports for your high school experience.


Builds strength, speed, agility, and mental toughness

Football is a physically demanding sport that requires players to be in top shape. Through rigorous training and regular practice, football players develop strength, speed, and agility. The intense physicality of the game also helps build mental toughness, as players must endure challenges and push through difficult moments on the field.

Requires strategy, discipline, and teamwork

Football is not just about brute strength; it is a game that requires strategy, discipline, and teamwork. Players must work together to execute plays, follow the coach’s instructions, and adapt to changing situations on the field.

The sport teaches valuable life skills such as communication, leadership, and problem-solving.

Risk of concussions and other injuries

It is important to acknowledge that football carries a risk of injuries, particularly concussions. According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, football has the highest concussion rate among high school sports.

However, it is worth noting that steps have been taken to improve player safety through rule changes, equipment advancements, and increased awareness of concussion protocols.

Large time commitment with daily practices and weekly games

Football is a sport that demands a significant time commitment. Players typically have daily practices, lasting several hours, and weekly games that can take up a substantial portion of their schedule. This level of dedication helps foster discipline, time management skills, and a strong work ethic.

Very popular sport with avid school spirit

Football is undeniably one of the most popular sports in high school, and it often brings out a strong sense of school spirit. Students, parents, and the community rally together to support their team, attend games, and cheer on their players.

The energy and excitement surrounding football games create a vibrant and memorable high school experience.


Basketball is one of the most popular sports played in high schools, and for good reason. It offers a multitude of benefits for players both physically and mentally.

Develops ball-handling, shooting, coordination, and footwork

Playing basketball helps to enhance various skills such as ball-handling, shooting, coordination, and footwork. Dribbling a ball, shooting hoops, and maneuvering around defenders are all great ways to improve hand-eye coordination and overall athleticism.

Additionally, the constant movement and quick changes in direction in basketball require players to have good footwork, which can be beneficial in other sports as well.

Fosters cooperation, communication, and quick-thinking

Teamwork is crucial in basketball, as players must work together to achieve a common goal. This fosters cooperation, communication, and the ability to think quickly on your feet. Players must communicate effectively on the court, calling out plays, setting screens, and passing the ball to open teammates.

This not only helps in the game of basketball but also in other aspects of life where teamwork and communication are necessary.

Chance of ankle sprains, knee injuries, and jammed fingers

Like any sport, basketball does come with some risks of injury. Ankle sprains, knee injuries, and jammed fingers are common among basketball players. However, with proper training, warm-up exercises, and wearing protective gear, the risk of injury can be minimized.

It is important for players to take precautions and listen to their bodies to prevent injuries and ensure a safe playing experience.

Moderate time commitment with a mix of practices and games

Playing basketball in high school requires a moderate time commitment. This typically involves a combination of practices and games. Practices allow players to work on their skills, learn new strategies, and build team chemistry.

Games provide an opportunity to put those skills into action and compete against other teams. The balance between practices and games allows players to improve their abilities while still having time for other commitments, such as academics or extracurricular activities.

Fast-paced sport with significant fan followings

Basketball is a fast-paced sport that keeps both players and spectators engaged. The constant movement, quick passes, and high-scoring nature of the game make it exciting to watch and play. The popularity of basketball also means that there is often a significant fan following, with games drawing large crowds and generating a sense of community and school spirit.


Soccer, also known as football in many countries, is one of the most popular sports played in high school. It offers a wide range of physical and mental benefits for young athletes.

Builds endurance, speed, agility, and ball control

Playing soccer requires players to constantly move around the field, which helps build endurance and improve cardiovascular health. The sport also enhances speed, agility, and coordination, as players need to quickly change direction and react to the movements of their opponents.

Additionally, the constant contact with the ball helps improve ball control skills, giving players a better touch and feel for the game.

Teaches teamwork, discipline, and communication

Soccer is a highly team-oriented sport, requiring players to work together towards a common goal. It teaches valuable lessons in teamwork, discipline, and communication. Players learn to trust and rely on their teammates, as well as understand their roles and responsibilities on the field.

Effective communication is key in soccer, as players need to coordinate their movements and make split-second decisions during the game.

Risk of ankle and knee injuries

Like any physical sport, soccer comes with a risk of injuries. The high-impact nature of the sport, with frequent running, jumping, and sudden changes in direction, can put strain on the ankles and knees.

However, proper training, conditioning, and the use of protective gear can help minimize the risk of injuries.

Significant cardio with frequent running during practices and matches

Soccer is known for its continuous play, with minimal breaks during matches. Players have to constantly move and run across the field, which provides an excellent cardiovascular workout. Regular participation in soccer improves aerobic fitness and helps maintain a healthy weight.

Less equipment needed compared to football

One of the advantages of playing soccer in high school is that it requires less equipment compared to sports like football. All you need is a pair of cleats, shin guards, and a ball to get started. This makes it a more accessible sport for students who may have budget constraints or limited access to sports equipment.


Volleyball is one of the best sports to play in high school due to its numerous benefits and versatility. It is a team sport that requires coordination, vertical leap, agility, and reaction time.

Develops coordination, vertical leap, agility, and reaction time

Playing volleyball helps in developing coordination as players have to synchronize their movements to make successful plays. It also improves vertical leap as players constantly jump to hit or block the ball.

Agility is another skill that is enhanced through quick movements and changes in direction on the court. Additionally, the fast-paced nature of the game sharpens reaction time, as players need to quickly anticipate and respond to the ball.

Encourages cooperation, communication, and competitiveness

Volleyball is a sport that heavily relies on teamwork and communication. Players need to work together to set up plays, pass the ball, and strategize. Effective communication on the court is crucial for successful coordination and execution.

Moreover, the competitive nature of volleyball fosters a drive to improve and push oneself to perform at a higher level.

Possibility of shoulder injuries and sprained ankles

While volleyball is generally a safe sport, there is a possibility of sustaining shoulder injuries such as rotator cuff tears or sprained ankles. These injuries can occur due to repetitive overhead motions or jumping and landing improperly.

However, with proper training, warm-up exercises, and technique, the risk of injuries can be minimized.

Fewer injuries than contact sports like football

Compared to contact sports like football, volleyball has a lower risk of severe injuries. The absence of physical contact reduces the likelihood of concussions, fractures, and other serious injuries. This makes volleyball a safer option for high school students who still want to engage in competitive sports while minimizing the risk of long-term injuries.

Can be played indoors or outdoors

One of the advantages of volleyball is its versatility in terms of where it can be played. It can be played both indoors and outdoors, depending on the availability of facilities. This flexibility allows high school students to participate in the sport regardless of weather conditions or the availability of indoor facilities.

Track & Field

Track & Field is one of the best sports to play in high school due to its numerous benefits and opportunities for athletes. Whether you’re a sprinter, a long-distance runner, or a jumper, this sport offers a wide range of events to suit various skill sets and interests.

Improves speed, endurance, power, and mobility

Participating in Track & Field can greatly enhance an athlete’s speed, endurance, power, and mobility. Sprinters focus on explosive bursts of speed, while long-distance runners build endurance through consistent training.

Jumpers work on power and agility, and throwers develop strength in their respective events. The diverse nature of Track & Field allows athletes to improve their overall athleticism and performance in other sports as well.

Allows athletes to compete individually or as a team

Track & Field provides athletes with the opportunity to compete individually or as part of a team. Individual events such as the 100-meter dash or the high jump allow athletes to showcase their personal skills and achievements.

On the other hand, relays and team events like the 4×400-meter relay foster a sense of camaraderie and teamwork among athletes. This balance between individual and team competition makes Track & Field a unique and rewarding sport.

Risk of strains, sprains, and stress fractures

Like any other sport, Track & Field comes with its share of risks. Athletes are susceptible to strains, sprains, and stress fractures due to the repetitive nature of some events and the high impact involved in others.

It is crucial for athletes to follow proper training techniques, warm-up routines, and take necessary precautions to minimize the risk of injuries. Seeking guidance from coaches and trainers can help athletes prevent and manage these common Track & Field injuries.

Ability to specialize in different events like sprints or long distance

Track & Field offers athletes the opportunity to specialize in specific events based on their strengths and interests. Whether it’s sprints, hurdles, long distance, or field events like shot put or discus throw, athletes can focus on honing their skills in their preferred events.

This specialization allows athletes to set personal goals, track their progress, and compete at a higher level in their chosen disciplines.

Outdoor sport with regular practices and seasonal meets

One of the appealing aspects of Track & Field is that it is primarily an outdoor sport. Athletes get to enjoy the benefits of fresh air, sunlight, and nature while training and competing. Regular practices and seasonal meets provide structure and a sense of progression throughout the year.

Athletes have the opportunity to showcase their hard work and dedication in front of their peers, coaches, and potentially college recruiters.


When it comes to the best high school sports, there are great options for all interests and abilities. Football builds grit and camaraderie. Basketball develops coordination and quickness. Soccer improves endurance and ball skills. Volleyball encourages teamwork and agility.

Track & field boosts speed and power.

While injuries are possible in any sport, the benefits of participating in athletics far outweigh the risks. The experiences and life lessons learned through high school sports create memories that last a lifetime. Focus on finding one or two sports you’re passionate about and go for it!

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