What is the history of cheerleading?

Updated: 10/24/2022
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Just as any anything else, Cheerleading has quite a history behind it. In ancient times spectators cheered for runners in races held during the first ever Olympic Games in ancient Greece. In the 1860's students in Great Britain began cheering at competitive sporting events and soon the idea spread to the United States. At Princeton in New Jersey, in 1865 the first pep club was formed and they created the first-known cheer:

"Tah rah rah Tiger Tiger Tiger Sis sis sis Boom boom boom Aaaahhhhh! Princton! Princeton! Princeton!"(Kuch 9)

The history of organized cheerleading started in 1898. The University of Minnesota was having a pitiful football season. One fan decided to write a letter to the Ariel, "The Official Paper of The University of Minnesota," and complain. He wrote "Everyone's been crying, 'Keep up your spirits, and we will have a winning team bye and bye.' I say give us a winning team and our spirits will take care of themselves." (Froiland 13)

Everyone agreed that something had to be done and soon a meeting was called of all University of Minnesota students and faculty before the game with Madison Wisconsin. One of the University's professors presented a brilliant scientific thesis on fan support. He stated that the collective stimuli of several hundred students focused on sending positive energy in the team's direction would help the team win. The professor concluded with a rousing cry: "Go to Madison! Go to Madison! Apply the summation of stimuli!" (Froiland 13)

The game came and went, and the Gophers got killed 28-0. The cheer didn't work. It just didn't roll off of the tongue the right way. Something different had to be done to get the Gopher fans riled up. This is where Jack Campbell, a then first-year medical student, stepped in and he became the first ever cheerleader. Someone needs to lead the yells with organized cheering, he explained. And there needed to be variety, not just "He's all right" and "They're all right." So, the next game, Campbell led the crowd in a cheer that marked history:

"Rah Rah Rah! Ski-U-Mah Hoo-Rah Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Minn-e-so-tah!" (Fecteau 18)

Thus, cheerleading in the United States was born.

Cheerleading, believe it or not, was dominated by men in its early years. However, when large numbers of young men went off to fight in World War II, the tables turned. More than 90 percent of cheerleaders were female from that point on. (Fecteau 18)

The evolution of cheerleading to a sport, again led by The University of Minnesota, started in the 1920's with the inclusion of gymnastics and tumbling routines. This helped cheerleaders to become known for their athletic ability. The 1930's brought on the growth of showmanship in cheerleading, and cheerleading became more entertaining to watch. Widespread use of the megaphone started in the 1900's and the famous pom pon was introduced in the 1950's by Lawrence Herkimer. (Fecteau 22)

Herkimer has done so much for cheerleading in the United States. He founded the National Cheerleading Association at Southern Methodist University after the holding of the first and second cheerleading clinics in 1946 and 1947. He also taught at the first cheerleading camp at Sam Houston College. The first year fifty two girls attended and by the next year the size of the camp had grown to 350. Herkimer had no idea that he would end up with 20,000 girls attending cheerleading camp in the summertime. Herkimer also was the inventor of a very popular cheerleading jump which was named "the herkie" after him. (Villarreal 18)

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But just to let you know just as any other sport cheerleading is a sport.

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