It's a girl thing: Females take rightful place in team sports

As the Olympic Winter Games approach, Americans again anticipate seeing some of their women skiers, skaters, and other athletes on the medal stand. Once, cheerleading, field hockey, and half-court basketball were about the only sports- related activities in which young women could participate. But, oh, how times have changed. Today, sports-minded young women can compete on many different varsity teams, among them "competitive spirit squads." These are for athletic cheerleaders whose routines feature acrobatic gymnastics moves. While not as popular as basketball, which leads annual participation surveys conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations, spirit squads nonetheless rank in the top 10. The leading sports for female students of high school age, based on a federation survey for 2003-04, the most recent year for which data are available, with participation figures:
1. Basketball 456,543
2. Outdoor track 428,198
3. Volleyball 386,022
4. Softball 364,759
5. Soccer 316,104
6. Cross-country 170,450
7. Tennis 169,292
8. Swimming and diving 148,154
9 Competitive spirit squad 84,416
10. Golf 64,245

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