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www.sportseventsmagazine.com January 2017 39 t SPORT Report GROW! Let's About 4 million cheerleaders participate in the sport when combining schools, clubs and youth recreation cheering, officials say. And that number is on the rise. "Over the past 15 or 20 years, I think we've seen a good rise in cheerleading participation," said Jim Lord, executive director of the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators. "I think the increase has slowed recently but from looking at the number of cheer- leading events and the participation figures I've seen from some of the major events, I would say it's still rising." And why the increase? "I attribute it to the same thing that has caused the increase all along: cheerleading is a fun, athletic activity that builds great friendships," Lord said. A half-million or more athletes take part each year in some type of high school cheer team in the United States, according to a survey taken by the National Feder- ation of State High School Associations (NFHS). An NFHS survey taken in 2009 showed 400,000 participants and the numbers have only increased, said Chris Boone, assistant director of publications and communications for the organization. Lord said that taking into account private schools adds another 100,000 to 150,000. Add middle-school cheerleaders, and the number rises another million or so. Youth recreation programs with 30 or so cheerleaders per team add another 1.5 mil- lion to 2 million to the tally. Finally, club version or All-Star cheerleading amounts to another 300,000, Lord said. And cheering is no longer just about rooting for other athletes in high schools. Cheerleaders compete for the top prizes themselves. ► Cheerleaders Moving Toward 4 Million BY TAMMY LEYTHAM Cheerleading is moving from the sidelines and taking center stage as competitive cheer and dance competitions grow around the world. Varsity All Star JAMfest Cheer Super Nationals hosted 700 teams in January in Indianapolis, IN. That's the largest number since the competition was first held at the Indiana Convention Center in 2000.