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High school sports: State of Utah filled with many club sports

Girls golf is the last sport to be added by the Utah High School Activities Association. That happened in 2008.

Since then, the state association has gone into a self-imposed moratorium to address the financial struggles of member schools in running athletic and activity programs. Schools have been free to sponsor club sports, and many have become increasingly popular over the past few years. Many of those sports are governed by their own associations, which have the benefit of regulating just one or two sports compared to the UHSAA, which oversees 20 sports and three activities.

While becoming sanctioned by the UHSAA has both pros and cons, it is up to the sports community to organize a proposal and approach the UHSAA board of trustees regarding interest. Below are a few of the sports that have recently gained popularity.


Bowling has become a popular club sport in high schools across the state. Although becoming sanctioned has not been discussed with the UHSAA, it has become a sponsored sport in 18 other states. In Utah, the sport is currently governed by the Utah State USBC Bowling Association.


While cheer is being sanctioned in states throughout the country, the trend is for states to sanction either cheer or drill team. Very few have both. Rob Cuff, the executive director of the UHSAA, said the board of trustees has chosen to sponsor drill as a sanctioned sport and support cheer as a spirit group, which has the option to attend out-of-state competitions upon district approval.


Gymnastics was a sanctioned girls sport in Utah from 1973-89. It was eliminated, however, and probably will not be renewed for safety reasons that relate to equipment upkeep and training of coaches. While the dominance of the University of Utah Red Rocks team has promoted the sport in Northern Utah, Cuff said interest at the high school level has faded as many talented gymnasts seek Olympic Development Programs at a young age. Girls gymnastics is currently sanctioned in 22 states, while boys gymnastics is sanctioned in only three states.


The hockey community showed interest in becoming sanctioned more than a decade ago when student participation was at a peak. Since then, however, the popularity of hockey throughout Utah has lessened. There are currently 25 teams operating under Utah High School Hockey. Boys hockey is sanctioned in 15 states and girls hockey is sanctioned in eight states.


Rodeo is growing quickly throughout Utah and has previously expressed interest in moving under the UHSAA umbrella. Cuff said he feels it may be the next sport interested in becoming sanctioned, right behind lacrosse. Approximately 30 different clubs sponsor rodeos across the state throughout the year. The sport is currently governed by the Utah High School Rodeo Association.


Rugby is another sport that has seen increased interest in recent years. There are currently nearly 30 boys programs but just seven girls programs. Cuff said he has not heard from Utah Rugby about becoming part of the UHSAA. He did say, however, it would be difficult to sanction a boys sport without its girls counterpart.


The popularity of skiing has been discussed, mostly because of the Utah climate. However, the skiing community has not approached the UHSAA with interest in becoming sanctioned. There are currently schools in Park City that operate on an inverse schedule, taking the winter competitive season off and attending class during the summer. Skiing is currently sanctioned in 13 states.

Water polo

Although Utah Water Polo currently sponsors around 20 teams from Cache Valley to Cedar City, the UHSAA has never been approached regarding sanctioning. Just three state associations have sanctioned the sport.


Either the UHSAA has previously been approached by the following sports or they are sanctioned in at least one other state: Badminton, bass fishing, canoeing, fencing, field hockey, indoor track, judo, race walking, riflery and weightlifting.

Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.

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