Then and Now: A Brief History of Cheerleading

by omni

“Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Tiger! S-s-s-t! Boom! A-h-h-h! ” That was one of the first documented cheers used by an organized cheerleading program. The cheer is called the ‘Locomotive’, and is still used today at Princeton University. Cheerleading was originally an all-male activity, and the students would cheer at football practices and games for both home and visiting teams. They even had special cheering sections designated in the stands for the games! Mark Pebbles brought cheerleading to the University of Minnesota in 1890. There, he created individual cheers for each sport. Johnny Campbell, a University of Minnesota student, is considered the first cheerleader by coordinating an entire team to lead the crowd in those cheers from November 2, 1898 on. During that time, the University of Minnesota created a “Yell Squad ” of six men, which later turned into a fraternity in 1905. Cheerleading was a male-dominated sport until the 1920’s. Some famous men who were cheerleaders include Franklin D Roosevelt, Dwight D Eisenhower, Jimmy Stewart, George W. Bush, Samuel L Jackson and Steve Martin. Nowadays, it is hard picturing all-male cheerleading teams. That was mostly the case until the 1920’s. The University of Minnesota was also conveniently the first cheerleading squad to allow women to join in 1923. However, other schools did not start following suit until the 40’s, mostly due in part to the onset of World War II. As more and more men were being drafted, it allowed the opportunity for more females to join the sport. From that point on, women dominated the sport and during the 50’s, the popularity of cheerleading increased evermore. It was not until the 1970’s that cheerleading was instigated in almost every school‚ from grade school through college. Can you image the NFL without cheerleaders? At Superbowl I, the Green Bay Packers hired local high school cheerleaders, however, very few teams did not have squads until the 50’s and a majority of teams did not until the 70’s. The first official cheerleading squad started in 1954 with the Baltimore. The most famous cheer squad, The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, was not founded until the 1972. Now, in 2016, wage disputes and NFL cheerleaders rule the media: cheerleaders are fighting for the right to get equal pay in a multi-billion dollar industry. Cheerleaders are fighting, yet again, to prove cheerleading is a sport that deserves more respect and appropriate compensation. Cheerleading has grown over time, from youth cheer squads to all-star teams. The sport itself continues to grow worldwide, in large part, due to movies like Bring It On and ESPN broadcasting cheerleading competitions. Cheerleading has grown to an estimated 600,000 participants worldwide. In the last few years, cheerleading has been classified as a sport in several states: Michigan, New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, New Mexico, South Dakota, Alaska, Virginia, and, most recently, California. This is allowing cheerleading to regulate how coaches are trained and safety standards to keep cheerleaders safe. Cheerleading allows great opportunities for girls and boys to receive sports scholarships for college, too! Cheerleading may be a female-dominated sport, but as the sport continues to evolve more and more, boys are joining back in. Cheerleading has been changing over the last few years, and has unlimited potential growth to come. It will be interesting to see how the sport continues to change in the next few years due to cheerleading becoming more inclusive. What else have you learned about cheerleading throughout history! Let us know in the comments!

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