When you think about high school sports and the most rabid fanbases in the country, it’s not a stretch to imagine fans packing into the gym to watch LeBron James back when he was at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School in Ohio. There’s also traditional football powerhouses like Odessa Permian of Friday Night Lights fame, and Chino Hills, California, home of one of top ranked basketball programs nationally two very scary places for opponents to visit. It’s doubtful that Ligonier, a city with a population of just over 4,400, even comes to mind. But this Northern Indiana city outside of Ft. Wayne, is home to the West Noble Chargers, who over the course of the 2015-2016 school year, laid a formidable claim to the title of most passionate community in high school sports.
Calculating community is no easy task. With the sheer number of high schools across the country, sports across different seasons, and different levels of competitiveness across state lines, the challenge comes in finding out a way to make passion quantifiable. The good news is that our business is uniquely positioned to do just that, as digital partners to 10% of America’s high schools. Our team provides them with a suite of tools that include a website, productivity apps, and triggered messaging software, which on the back end, gives us insight into what is happening on a day-by-day basis in just shy of 2,000 local sports communities from 39 states. It’s from here that we built out VNN’s 2015-2016 National Power Rankings, a weighted value that takes into account traffic trends and community interest to put a number on fan frenzy over the course of an entire school year.
With a score of 15.35, Charger Nation at West Noble is alive and well, dominating the competition, with the next best, Greeley West (CO) scoring 11.17, and third place Kent City, Grand Rapids (MI) at 8.93, whose athletic director, Jason Vogel was also subject of a recent athletic director interview. Other great sports communities in notable states included Golden West High School from outside San Francisco (8.905), Temple High School, near Waco, Texas (8.180), Sherwood (MD)(7.717), John Curtis Christian (LA) (6.305), Padua Franciscian (OH) (6.724), and Park City (UT) (6.457).
Regionally, the Midwest found itself home to 56% of the top 50, making it disproportionately likely that you’ll find more energy in high school sports communities than out West, who contributed only 12%. But keep your eyes open, as next year’s key communities to watch include Woodlawn Leadership Academy (LA), Woodbridge (CA), Bath County (KY), Randolph (AL), Godinez (CA), and Caldwell (ID), schools all outside the Midwest that placed high on this year’s report, but didn’t yet have a full year as part of our network to qualify for slots.
Here’s a full look at the 2015-2016 school year’s top 25 sports communities in the US from last school year:
- West Noble (Ligonier, IN)
- Greeley West (Greeley, CO)
- Kent City (Kent City, MI)
- Golden West (Visalia, CA)
- Clarenceville (Livonia, MI)
- New Life (Woodbury, MN)
- Dock Mennonite (Lansdale, PA)
- Harmony Grove (Benton, AR)
- Freeland (Freeland, MI)
- Niles (Niles, MI)
- Temple (Temple, TX)
- Trimble Tech (Fort Worth, TX)
- Central Catholic (Lafayette, IN)
- Valley Christian (Cerritos, CA)
- St. Catherine of Siena (Wixom, MI)
- Sherwood (Sandy Spring, MD)
- Brandon (Ortonville, MI)
- Bloomington North (Bloomington, IN)
- Huron (New Boston, MI)
- North Dallas (Dallas, TX)
- Blake (Silver Spring, MD)
- Concord (Elkhart, IN)
- Forest Area (Fife Lake, MI)
- St. Mary’s (Medford, OR)
- Southwest YES Prep (Houston, TX)
As we continue to grow, add more schools, and others mature, we’ll be running this report multiple times over a school year. Look for our next National Top 25 from Fall Sports 2016 sometime this Winter.